Her artistic education began when her mother, Salha Efflatoun, hired Kamel El Telmissany as Inji's private tutor. Encouraged by Telmissany, at the young age of eighteen Efflatoun exhibited her seminal work Young Girl and Monster (1941) alongside the avant garde Art and Liberty Movement. Reflected in her choice of subject matter, we see Efflatoun highlighting the unhappiness she saw amongst the working class in Egypt. Efflatoun foresaw her impending imprisonment, in March 1959. For the first time in Egyptian history, women were imprisoned for their political beliefs. Alongside twenty-five female political activists, Efflatoun was secretly arrested by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime. Inji Efflatoun was imprisoned for four and half years, and used her paintings as a negotiating tool. In July 1963, she was released from incarceration and painting became her main activity until her death in 1989.
The present work which was painted in 1961 is the only work to ever appear at public auction from her period of imprisonment, which is considered to be one of the most important stages of her artistic development. In an interview with LaDuke, Inji Efflatoun said: “Prison was a very enriching experience for my development as a human being and an artist. When a crisis or tragedy occurs, one can become more strong or be destroyed.” Her prison paintings typically includes an array of portraiture and group scenes, with figures always dressed in striped inmate uniforms and framed by the vertical bars of a jail cell. Her works from the prison period are characterised by their bold and textured brushstrokes, dark and expressive colours in an atmospheric and hypnotic trance. According to her memoirs it was in prison “that the reduction of her liberties enhanced her capacity for aesthetic appreciation, intensifying the wonder of even the smallest quantum of nature available to her gaze”.
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