Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in Egyptian Modern Art

Art in Egypt during the first half of the twentieth century has frequently been understood as closely tied to Egyptian nationalism, emerging suddenly in 1908 with the founding of the Cairo School of Fine Arts to provide the nation with visual representations. I look at art writing during the first half of the twentieth century in both the Arabic and French-language Egyptian press to show instead that a public discourse surrounding the fine arts emerged slowly over the course of several decades to constitute a locus for the negotiation of mutually constitutive cosmopolitan and national subject positions. Through their work, artists and critics positioned themselves, often ambivalently, in relation to the manifold claims of Egyptian, Arab, and European identity jostling for recognition within the context of the British occupation and the struggle for independence.

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