WITH SUPPORT from the British Council and published by Hala Publication and Distribution in Cairo, Bernard Rice: The Unknown
Father of Egyptian Printmaking, a new book by the academic, art critic, and researcher, Dr. Yasser Mongy, reveals the unknown
biography of one of the most important pioneer masters in the Cairo School of Fine Arts and the founder of the Department of
Printmaking: the British artist Charles Bernard Rice. Rice was one of the most influential British artists in the development of relief
printing, prominent during the first half of the twentieth century, and restored one of the most famous ancient Egyptian monuments.
Additionally, he was active politically in Egypt during World War II, and he held a historic role in developing the Cairo School of Fine
Arts, and educating the first generation Egyptian pioneers of graphic art, namely: Nahmia Saad and Abdalla Gohar.
The book thus bridges the gap between the importance of this pioneering artist and his erasure from art history in Egypt, especially
among graphic artists and researchers. Since he left Egypt in 1948, Rice has been forgotten in Egypt, and this book aims to bring his
name the appreciation and recognition it deserves.
This documentary research project to commemorate Bernard Rice has been a joint effort between the author and the British Council
in Cairo. The council assisted in documenting Rice’s life and his work, developing the main idea of the text, and facilitated its
publication. This 304-page book also contains a collection of rare photographs and artworks, with a total of eighty-eight images,
including forty-five published for the first time.
Summary of the book:
The book historically reviews and analyzes documentary evidence of Rice’s life and art to reveal a unique artist ignored by many
histories of the Egyptian modern art movement. This avoidance is particularly acute in histories of modern Arab printmaking, to the
extent that one can only find brief mention of the artist in a few texts, without even mention of his date of birth or death.
All histories of Egyptian graphic art cite Bernard Rice as the man who founded the Graphic Art Department at the Cairo School of Fine
Arts between 1933 and 1934. They describe how he taught the secrets of engraving and printmaking to a number of students, who
quickly established the Egyptian movement of modern graphic art. Yet, these sources fail to mention anything else about Rice. No
texts document his historic mission in Egypt, nor do they provide any examples of his works from which to understand his artistic style
and technique. All we can know from these texts is that Rice was a little-known English man who suddenly appeared at the Cairo
School of Fine Arts to establish a new department, opening a new field of art in Egypt and educating a generation of powerful
engravers and printmakers, after which he abruptly disappeared! The current narrative of these histories repeats the same story:
Bernard Rice founded the current Graphic Art Department at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, in which Al-Hussein Fawzi (1905 - 1999)
worked, and Nahmia Saad (1912 - 1945) and Abdullah Gohar (1916 - 2006) studied. Yet not one text has attempted to discover more
about who this Bernard Rice really was.
Thus arose the need to more fully research the biography of this important leading artist who was responsible for the introduction of
graphic art to the academic system of Fine Arts in Egypt. This new research needed to construct a clear picture of his personality and
his art and document his time in Egypt as a founder and an educator of an entire generation of famous pioneers in the field of graphic
art in Egypt.
This retrospective is an attempt to resuscitate Rice’s rich biography from decades of ignorance in historical and critical studies in the
field of graphic art. In particular, this study is for the generations of researchers who have graduated from the department that Rice
himself founded. The author is also one of this generation of graduates as well as a member of its faculty.
Importance of the book:
It should be noted that this book is the first dedicated history of Bernard Rice in any language. Even European and American histories
of graphic art report only a few examples of Rice's works and activities. In this book, the author provides new analysis of artworks by
the first generation pioneers of Egyptian printmaking, many of whom had been influenced by Rice. These new analyses shed light on
the establishment of this art form in Egypt. The book also reveals for the first time the uncertainties of Rice’s relationship with the
cultural and political history of Egypt, including his role in the historical discovery of ancient Egyptian tombs and their restoration. Also
discussed is his role among the British political activists in Egypt during the Second World War, particularly with regards to the
conflicts between Nazi agents and Trotskyite communists.
About the Author:
Dr. Yasser Mongy was born in Egypt 1972 and received a BFA in printmaking from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1996 with
honors. He received an MA degree in 2003 for a thesis entitled, "The Artistic Treatment of the Idea of ??Death in Printmaking," and a PhD
in 2006 for a thesis entitled "The Graphical Treatment of the Idea of ??Satan and Occult Symbols." He currently is assistant professor in
the Graphic Art Department at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo.
Dr. Mongy is also an activist in the Egyptian cultural movement, and contributes work under the umbrella of a number of official cultural
institutions. He is the Secretary of the Fine Arts Committee of the Supreme Council of Culture, an expert in the Academy of Arabic
Language for the "Glossary of Civilization Terms" since 2008, and a member of the Federation of Arab Internet Writers.
He has won several awards in art and research, including:
· First Prize of Arab art critics (Sharjah Prize for critical research in fine arts) 2009
· Third prize (in the same competition) 2008
· Grand prize in the 10th Youth Salon (1998) for a group of three large intaglio plates
· Salon award in the field of painting in the 11th Youth Salon
· Third prize in the field of drawing in the 13th Youth Salon
· First prize in Art Criticism in the 15th Youth Salon
· First prize in Art Criticism in the 16th Youth Salon
Dr. Mongy has had three solo exhibitions in Cairo and participates in the Egyptian art world regularly through public and collective
exhibitions. He has represented Egypt in many international events, festivals, and performances, and has been a member of judging
committees in a number of Arab art and criticism competitions. He has also been a member of a few organizing committees for
international expositions, including the Egypt International Triennale in 2006 and the Cairo International Biennale in 2010.
Draft of Modernity in the Arab Visual Arts, Arab Center for the Arts in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 2010. Artists and Heretics: Secret
Codes in the Work of the Pioneers of Art, Hala for Publication and Distribution in Egypt, 2009. Leadership in the Arab Fine Arts &
Visual Arts, Arab Center for the Arts in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 2009. Black Magic: Secrets and History, by Hala for Publication
and Distribution in Egypt, Egypt 2008. Ghairul-madhok Alyhem, Hala for Publication and Distribution, Egypt 2008. "Secrets of
Creatures of the Darkness and Horror Legends, Hala for Publication and Distribution, Egypt 2007. Mulid Sedi Bseesa, Hala for
Publishing and Distribution, Egypt 2007.
Additionally, Dr. Mongy has published a large number of articles and studies in Arabic newspapers, magazines, and periodicals, as
well as numerous critical studies in catalogs of contemporary Egyptian and Arab artists.
A note from the author:
In this book, I have aimed to investigate the very rich life of Bernard Rice, his unique in approach art, and his rich potential and talents,
supra-ready templates of rigid thought. I have given my reader information through which to draw an honest picture of the man, and I
wish that this picture gives Rice the recognition which he deserves, for his splendid personality, unique artistic talents and his great
services to Egypt. Rice founded an important new academic department, inaugurating graphic art in Egypt, which flourished and
grew. From the boughs of his towering, shady tree, his students received the torch of leadership from their teacher to develop the
features of Egyptian graphic art.
I believe that the reader of this book will feel the gravity of the injustice that took place towards this great man, and the deficiency of the
documentation about him in the history of Egyptian art, which dropped Bernard Rice and overlooked his historic role. What was the
secret of his greatness? Was it his education and upbringing of the early pioneers of Egyptian printmaking, teaching them the secrets
of engraving, printmaking, and the fundamentals of art? Or, was it his effort to restore an ancient Egyptian treasure to great luster? Or,
was it the dual artistic and political role he played towards achieving a balance between the cultural representatives of the warring
parties in Egypt during World War II?
The reader of this book, whether she is fond of Rice’s personality or of his works, will probably not be able to escape the feeling of
regret for this great man, whose biography and works were ignored for decades, remaining unknown, even among the generations of
graduates of the department which he established.
To the reader of this book I say: This story has been brewing in me for many years, and I hope that I have achieved what I set out to do.
That is, I hope I have unveiled a luminous picture, long overlooked and forgotten, that will allow us to see the handsome features of
Bernard Rice, “the unknown father of Egyptian printmaking.”