Born in the town of Tunbarah, in 1891, Mahmoud Moktar moved to Cairo in 1900. After graduating fromthe École Égyptienne des Beaux-Arts, Cairo in 1912, Mokhtar received a scholarship funded by Prince Youssef Kamal to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, enrolling in the studio of French sculptor, Jules-Felix Coutan, as a visiting student. It was also during this period that he briefly worked as the artistic director of a wax museum, Musée Grévin, at the end of World War I, where he sculpted statues of political leaders and popular figures.
It was during visits back to to Cairo that Mokhtar became involved in politics, creating works embedded with a new kind of national identity calling for social and political reform mobilising his artistic practice in aid of the anti-imperialist nationalist movement. As an influential member of the Wafd Party, he also wrote critical newspaper articles aimed at enhancing art appreciation among intellectual elites.
Rising to national prominence after unveiling the celebrated public monument, Nahdat Misr in 1928 and working between his studios in Cairo and Paris, Mokhtar began exhibiting his sculptures at the renowned Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris in 1930. Working in bronze, marble and stone, he demonstrated his political commitment by combining Pharaonic imagery and themes with elements of the contemporary art-deco aesthetics of the day.
Mokhtar died of leukemia in 1934, at the age of 43. In 1952, the Mahmoud Mokhtar Museum designed by Ramses Wissa Wassef opened on Gezirah Island in Cairo. It continues to hold the majority of the artist's works.
The artist's work can also be found in the collections of the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art, Cairo, Barjeel Art Foundation and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha. Mokhtar's sculptures have featured in many international exhibitions, including at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, Barjeel Art Foundation and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha.