Sirry, Gazbia (1925–)
Gazbia Sirry is one of the most prominent and influential painters in Egypt.
Sirry (also Jadhbiya Sirri) was born in 1925 in Cairo, Egypt, to a family of Turkish origin. She completed training at the High Institute of Fine Arts for Girls in Cairo in 1948 and received additional tutelage in Paris under Marcel Gromaire, as well as at the Slade School of Art in London in the 1950s. She taught at Helwan University from 1955 to 1981 and at The American University in Cairo from 1980 to 1981.
INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
A prolific painter and an art educator who also established a fund in her name to support young Egyptian artists, Sirry's first exhibition was in 1951. Throughout her career, she has been concerned with the fusion of the personal with the social or political, describing her work as embodying her sensual relationship with color and her obsession with the human condition. Sirry was a member of the Group of Modern Art in the 1950s, which adopted the ideology of modernization. Sirry's contribution was to portray nationalist subjects (such as martyrdom against British occupation and peasant mothers) in a figurative style inspired by pharaonic representation and also international Expressionism.
With the increasing problems of the regime of Egyptian president Jamal Abd al-Nasir (Gamal Abdel Nasser) and the Arab defeat in the 1967 War, Sirry took on grim subjects such as imprisonment, grief, and racial discrimination. In the 1970s and 1980s, her concerns shifted to crowded urban environments and, in contrast, the sparse landscapes of the desert and the sea. The changes in Sirry's subjects and styles parallel the ebbs and flows in the general outlook of Egyptian intellectuals toward politics and society during her career.
THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE
Sirry is recognized as one of the Arab world's most significant modern art painters. Between 1953 and 1988, she held eighty-eight solo exhibitions of her work in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. She has received many awards, including the Prize of Rome in Painting in 1952, First Place at the Salon de Caire (Cairo) in 1960, Honorary Prize at the 1956 Venice Biennale, Fourth Great Prize of International Art in Monaco in 1968, and the Egyptian government's State Merit Prize in 2000.
Gazbia Sirry will be remembered as one of the most well known Egyptian artists of the twentieth century.
Name: Gazbia Sirry
Birth: 1925, Cairo, Egypt
Education: High Institute of Fine Arts for Girls in Cairo, 1948; training at the Slade School of Art in London
- 1951: Holds first exhibition
- 1952: Receives Prize of Rome in Painting
- 1955: Begins teaching at Helwan University
- 1956: Honorary Prize at the 1956 Venice Biennale
- 1960: First Place at the Salon de Caire (Cairo)
- 1968: Fourth Great Prize of International Art in Monaco
- 1980: Begins one-year teaching position at The American University in Cairo
- 2000: Receives State Merit Prize from the Egyptian government
El-Din, Mursi Saad. Gazbia Sirry: Lust for Color. Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press, 1998.
Karnouk, Liliane. Contemporary Egyptian Art. Cairo, Egypt: American University in Cairo Press, 1995.
updated by Michael R. Fischbach