In 1966, Gazzar sadly died prematurely of a heart attack at the age of 41. He was posthumously acknowledged shortly after his death as in a class of his own stylistically, and one of the forefathers of Egypt's golden age Modernist movement.
Born in Alexandria in 1925, Abdel Hadi El Gazzar moved with his family to Cairo in 1940, where they settled in the historical district of Sayyida Zeinab. At the Helmeya secondary school, Gazzar joined the artistic club initiated by Hussein Youssef Amin, the great pedagogical figure who discovered Gazzar and his childhood friend and colleague, Hamed Nada (1924-1990). Amin continued to follow the two pioneers throughout their careers.
In 1942 Gazzar received first prize in a drawing competition among secondary schools, as well as first prize in a general drawing competition. Gazzar embarked on medical studies which he abandoned after six months to enrol with the Faculty of Fine Arts. In 1946, he joined the Group of Contemporary Egyptian Art founded by his mentor Hussein Youssef Amin. In 1949, Gazzar and Amin were arrested because of the former's painting The Popular Chorus. They were freed after the intervention of influential aristocratic pioneers Mahmoud Said (1897-1964) and Mohamed Naghi (1888-1956). After exhibiting with the Contemporary Art Group, Gazzar received a scholarship to study art in Rome.
Among several international accolades, Gazzar won first prize for painting in Brussels in 1958. He then exhibited across Italy in Rome, Palermo and the Bari International Exhibition where he obtained the silver medal. In 1964 he was decoarted by the Egyptian government with the Medal of Arts and Sciences and the National Encouragement prize for his painting The High Dam. Gazzar’s first series of drawings, produced in 1946 when he was only 21 years old, were based on the anthropological theme of man before civilisation and his relationship with the wilderness, and were evidence of his supreme prodigal talent.
The second period of Gazzar’s career (1948 to 1960) reflects the influence of the Sayyida Zeinab district where medieval Islamic and oriental traditions resisted all the winds of modern westernisation. It was through this district that Gazzar witnessed the traditional moulid festivals that have been celebrated since the Fatimid dynasty. In them, Gazzar was exposed to myriad of the folkloric rituals practiced, including those of fortune telling and purification. Thus, Gazzar began to associate the intuitive aspect of his art with these typical elements of popular folkloric art which was preoccupied with the mysteries of the concealed and the unknown.
In his final period Gazzar was very much influenced by Egypt's political future and the forces of change. He recorded his feelings in some of his masterpieces such as; The High Dam, The Charter and The Bandung Conference. In 1966 Gazzar sadly died prematurely of a heart attack at the age of 41. He was posthumously acknowledged shortly after his death as in a class of his own stylistically, and one of the forefathers of Egypt's golden age Modernist movement.