As a young child in Alexandria, Bikar was described as an artistic prodigy. He was a talented painter, poet, illustrator, story teller, and musician until his death in 2002. By the precocious age of eight, he mastered the lute and by the following year he was teaching the practice to others. Among many roles, Bikar had a successful career as an illustrator, drawing cartoons for the first illustrated book in Egypt in 1952 titled “The Stream of Days” written by Taha Hussein. Even in Bikar's master canvases, one could spot his attention to line, a distinguishing mark of a gifted illustrator and animator.
While paying homage to the miniature paintings of the earlier Islamic period, Bikar had the keen ability to articulate form in an impeccable relation to geometry spacing his compositions in a logical and linear manner. Just like miniature paintings of India, Persia, Turkey and the Arab world, Bikar flattens his overlaying patterns to demarcate an imaginative sense of space and perspective. As in the present work, The Landlord, 1984, Bikar crafts an illusion of depth in the white mosque and the deepening plane by way of sharp juxtaposition between the grey shading and the white façade. This exaggerated space accentuates this man’s illusory trek across the frame—from the darkened overcast of the far left toward the hazy sunrays peering from the far right.
Although Bikar's paintings derive their conceptual power from his understanding of the greater African and Middle Eastern art traditions, his sumptuous palettes are profoundly influenced by leading modern illustrators of his time such as the Norman Rockwell and French artist Bernard Boutet de Monvel. Boutet de Monvel paints iconic scenes of the quotidian lives of the Parisian elite, most renowned for his luxurious portraiture. However, just like Bikar, his flawless devotion to symmetry places his work in a nearly fictional realm, regardless of the slick life-like rendering of his characters. Characteristic of his Art Deco style, Boutet de Monvel’s Sylvie and her dog Champagne (1913), the base of the bed and the scalloped frame above has a decisively architectural quality. These ordinary figures become privileged by their centralized position, framed within these magnificent architectural forms. However, Bikar does not work in such grandiose terms. Instead, he depicts the sublime yet subdued nature of peasant living within these spaces; placing his striking elongated forms in daily activity, be that passing along the street, or sitting on a bench.
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