Lot 30
  • 30

Mahmoud Khalil

17,000 - 23,000 GBP
16,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Mahmoud Khalil
  • Navire du désert (Desert Boat) 
  • pen and ink on paper 


Collection of the Artist, Cairo
Acquired from the above by Hussein Youssef Amin in the 1960s 
Thence by Descent 
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2010


Paris, Unknown Gallery, Mahmoud Khalil, 1955

Catalogue Note

Mahmoud Khalil was born in 1929. He was the youngest pupil of professor and later peer Hussein Yousef Amin. He was also the youngest member of the Contemporary Art Group.

Khalil studied philosophy under the teachings of the great philosopher Abdel Rahman Badawi. He was in constant dialogue with the romantic writer Mahmoud Taymour. Following a governmental grant and a drawing competition, Khalil participated in the first ever group show of the Contemporary Art Group in 1946. His works would later be exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1952.

Mahmoud Khalil’s body of work is one that cannot be compared to any other Egyptian artists. His minimal and precise brush strokes are reminiscent of the most exquisite Persian miniatures, with their intricate, colourful and vibrant compositions. The artist draws his inspiration for traditional Egyptian and Sudanese rural elements such as the desert, palm trees, wildlife, farming and village life. Strong parallels can be drawn with a certain folkloric Egyptian form of primitivism and naïve art, such as that of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau.

An introvert with a discreet personage, Khalil spent most of his adolescence reading poetry and spending time observing his rural surroundings. His poetic and dreamlike vision of the countryside landscape is a reflection of his sensitive yet complex character, and this is seen through his art that barely dissociates colour from form. The artist draws his technique from the miniaturists of the Persian court, where the set up for the décor and setting is the first step towards defining the overall picture, which comes together with a final vibrant pointillist rhythm, defining Khalil’s dreaming figurines where humans cohabitate with the wildlife. Navire du Desert from 1949is a prime example of Khalil’s earliest and most delicate work from the 1940s, a key moment in the artists oeuvre. Indeed, this is a period where his mentor and founder of the Contemporary Art Group, Hussein Youssef Amin encouraged the artist to explore and accept his naïve genre of painting while forcing him to stay within the boundaries of visual arts so as not to fall into the register of a 'classical' painter. Known as a prisoner of love and a poet inspired by the Sohag fields and heated landscapes of Sudan, Mahmoud Khalil managed to preserve his 'oriental' grace by associating it to this fragile and intimate link that unifies men with nature.