American University of Beirut

The Arab Nude: The Artist as Awakener - Conference

​​​The AUB Art Galleries invites you to a full-day conference on the genre and practice of the Nude by Arab artists during the Mandate era.

Friday, March 11
​College Hall, Auditorium B1

The Arab Nude: The Artist as Awakener// Ansar al-`ury: al-fannan al-mustanhad
Conference at the American University of Beirut (AUB)

The continuing interest of scholars and the public at large in the modernizing discourse of the nahḍa has been for the most part centered on the historical events or figures who contributed to this “renaissance,” or “awakening” (as the term has been most commonly translated) by means of literature, linguistics, politics, media or the sciences. But in addition to the poets, writers, scientists, lawyers, journalists, clergy and politicians, there was another significant category of intellectuals who proposed to forge a modern Arab identity by other – pictorial – means. Artists from various Arab countries engaged in the project of modernization by launching art institutions, developing stylistic conventions, and inaugurating new genres and forms of fine arts. The Nude has been regarded by many Arab painters and sculptors as one efficient technology of modernization. Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Algerian, and Palestinian painters and sculptors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – from Mahmud Mukhtar and Muhammad Nagi in Khedivate Egypt to Moustapha Farrouk and Omar Onsi in French Mandate Lebanon – set out to effect an aesthetically grounded liberation from both Ottoman and European colonization. They regarded the fine arts, and the Nude in particular, as an efficient tool, even as a means for the creation of an independent state and modern citizen, and for the education of the masses in the spirit of modernity.

On the occasion of the exhibition, “The Arab Nude: The Artist as Awakener,” a one-day conference will take place on Friday, March 11, 2016. The conference invites students, scholars, and the public to engage in a discussion of the genre of the nude and its historical significance within the modernizing context of the nahḍa.

Conference organized by Kirsten Scheid and Octavian Esanu


  • Hala Auji (American University of Beirut)
  • Saleem Al-Bahloly (Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin)
  • Hala Bizri (Editions Snoubar Bayrout)
  • Nadia Bou Ali (American University of Beirut)
  • Jean Colombain (Independent Researcher, Cairo)
  • Elka Correa (Aix-Marseille University) 
  • Octavian Esanu (America University of Beirut) 
  • Michelle Hartman (McGill University)
  • Silvia Naef (University of Geneva)
  • Nadia Radwan (University of Bern)
  • Dina A. Ramadan (Bard College)
  • Kirsten Scheid (American University of Beirut)

Format: 30-minute presentations followed by discussions

Conference Program​

Friday, March 11, 2016

Location: College Hall, Auditorium B


Introductory Remarks: Kirsten Scheid, Octavian Esanu

Session 1: 10:30am-1:30pm

Hala Auji (American University of Beirut)
“Early Representations of Nudity in Arabic Periodicals”

Nadia Bou Ali (American University of Beirut)
“Bare Language: From the Hysteric to the Nude”

Hala Bizri (Editions Snoubar Bayrout)
“Nudism, for a Better Life”

Kirsten Scheid (American University of Beirut) 
“Art Criticism: Of Nudes Barely There”

Discussant: Michelle Hartman (McGill University)
Lunch: 1:30pm-2:30pm

Session 2: 2:30pm-5:30pm

Silvia Naef (University of Geneva) 
“Of Naked Bodies and Nudes – Arab Art Students and the Representation of Female Bodies”

Nadia Radwan (University of Bern)
“Ideal Nudes and Iconic Bodies in the Works of the Egyptian Pioneers”

Elka Correa (Aix-Marseille University) 
“The Feminine Nude as an Expression of Modernism through the Works of Mahmud Mukhtar”

Jean Colombain (Independent Researcher, Cairo)
“The Art and Freedom Group Laid Bare: Surrealism and Intense Desire in Egypt (1938-1948)”

Saleem Al-Bahloly (Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin)
“Musallikha, or the Anti-Nude”

Discussant: Dina A. Ramadan (Bard College)​

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