This paper contextualizes the Art and Liberty group within the scope of Egyptian modern art. In doing so, it argues that this movement does not simply translate “central” Parisian surrealism to so-called “peripheral” Cairo. Rather, Art and Liberty represents a pivot in a continuum of Egyptian modern art and an important node in the transnational expansion of surrealism in the late 1930s. To situate the movement in a larger arc, this article spans the 1910s to the 1950s. An analysis of famous sculptor Mahmoud Mukhtar (1891–1934) first represents the nationalist and classicist origins of Egyptian modern art. Second, an examination of the Long Live Degenerate Art manifesto explicates the complexity of the group’s ideology in its early days. Third, Kamel Telmisany’s (1915–72) shift from expressionist painter and draftsman to realist filmmaker signals how aesthetics and mediums adapted to new iterations of the Art and Liberty ideology. Fourth, painter Abdel Hadi el-Gazzar (1925–66) and the Contemporary Art Group epitomize the impact of Art and Liberty after World War II. This chronological progression illustrates how the Egyptian Art and Liberty group reacted vociferously against nationalism in politics and art, both locally and regionally. In doing so, they shifted the audience of modern Egyptian art and created a new, transnational public. For these reasons, the author calls this movement the “Beautiful Black Cloud” of modern Egyptian Art. It was violent, stormy, and did not always look “pretty,” but it was beautiful in its legacy.

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