Contemporary Arts

Salah Taher

(b 1911-d 2007)


Salah El-Din Taher Mohammad is one of the greatest Egyptian painters of all times; he also was an art administrator and a philosopher of art. Born in Cairo in 1911, he graduated from the School of Fine Arts in 1934. In 1944, he joined the Faculty of Fine Arts, which is now part of Helwan University.


As an arts administrator, he held many high-profile positions: In 1954, he was appointed head of the Museum of Modern Arts. In 1962, he was appointed head of  Khedival Opera House. In 1966, he joined Al-Ahram. (He painted more than 35 paintings, for Al-Ahram that decorate the walls of its building). He remained in the position of the artistic consultant for Al-Ahram till his death on February 6, 2007 at the age of 95.


Taher’s painted academic portraits of President Anwar Sadaat , Om Kalthoum and many kings, princes, first ladies and leading men. Overall, he painted approximately 15000 paintings and held more than 80 art fairs.  His work has been exhibited in Egypt, Venice, New York, San Francisco, Geneva, Beirut, Kuwait and Jeddah. He was granted the highest awards in Egypt and internationally, among them, the State Incentive Award in 1959, the Alexandria Biennale Award and  the Guggenheim Foundation Award in 1961, the Egyptian State Merit Award in 1974, the “First Prize Biennial Alexandria” in 1996. In 2001, he was honored alongside Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz at the opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and in 2002, he was granted the two highest awards in Egypt the Sciences and Arts Medal and the Mubarak Award.


From Academic Realism to Abstract Expressionism – where excelled and achieved his greatest popularity, Salah Taher’s genius does not only lie in his fine and elegant lines, his bold colors or his use of a knife to spread transparent coats of diluted paint, but also in his cultural and intellectual contributions in the philosophy of the Arts. He believed in the significance of weaving colors, words and rhythms together in one unique abstract form that he referred to as “the universal language”.

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