THE POWER OF THE PEN

A letter from Georges Henein to Ramses published in Letters from the Past Issue

Ranging from declarations of love and outpourings of grief to observations on sales, or the lack of them, our collection of letters from and to artists offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into the private world of a creative force

While artists will always express themselves first and foremost through their work, what they say to loved ones and colleagues in writing can be equally revealing, as our collection of letters on the following pages shows. The compilation is both varied and inspirational, comprising a mix of correspondence provided by the historian and curator, Sam Bardaouil, whose book and show on the Surrealism movement in Egypt are featured later on in this edition, and extensive research undertaken by the Selections team.

Some of the correspondence is factual, giving us a wonderful insight into the challenges that artists faced when attempting to promote or sell their work, while other notes are brimming with emotion.


To : Ramses
From: Georges Henein

My dear Ramses

What have you been up to? For two or three months and since I received the philosopher’s stone, the touchstone of the unknowable, I have had no news from you.

I recently had trouble with the painters who were pretending to represent the continuation of ‘Art et Liberte’: Kamal Youssef — Hassan — Gazzar -Nada — Masseouda — etc. They planned to form a new group, ‘Art et Culture’. But when it came to defining its objectives, they were talking about ‘the national personality of the artist’, and eliminating artists like Eric de Nemes, pretending that he didn’t express the quintessence of Egyptian life and that there was nothing really to admire. That’s it, we have to paint a gamousse, a goza, a sakia, a kouttab class.

Everything is tainted with cosmopolitism, the absolute worst, a morally fuzzy fascism, enveloped in an incurable ignorance. Futile beginnings convince us that the country is not sufficiently mature to cope with the ‘effendis’ in uniform.

Thanks to the tension these days, Zehir showed a combination of comical innocence, malice and a spark of life. Our dear librarian prepared his candidacy for some dubious elections for the hundredth time …. Did you read the last Abellio? Why does it have to be subjected to this odious terminology? Some of the passages (relating to the science of evolution) are excellent but, still, how much nonsense enveloped in a barbarian language?

For you, our nostalgic recollections


Provided by Sam Bardaouil

Courtesy of Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, copyright: The Farhi/Henein Estate Archive, Paris

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