Homegrown Heroes: Peasant Masculinity and Nation-Building in Modern Egyptian Art

On January 18, 1938 the Fuad I Agricultural Museum in Cairo opened its palatial doors to the local public and featured four untitled portraits (1934–1937) of peasant men sporting distinctive costumes and handicrafts. The artist behind these prominent paintings was an Egyptian named Aly Kamel al-Deeb (1909–1997), whose early career combined commissions at official museums and participation in anti-establishment artist groups in Egypt. What could explain al-Deeb’s transition from creating art in opposition to national museums, to painting for such institutions? This essay analyzes al-Deeb’s four paintings, which I call Homegrown Heroes, and argues that they began shifting the … Read more