The Exhibit: Oriental Visions from Dreams into Light

The Exhibit: Oriental Visions from Dreams into Light

Inspired by the energy of Napoleonic conquest, European painters conceived a fantasy vision of the Orient which they subsequently compared to the reality of their travels. And while experience did not put an end to a fantasy vision that was inseparable from the female figure, the experience of Oriental landscapes and light profoundly changed their vision and practices, all the way from Ingres and Delacroix to the early days of modernity. That is why this exhibition is articulated around two themes: figure and landscape. Centering on the Mediterranean Orient, it explores two viewpoints that prevailed throughout the 19th century and continued into the early 20th century. Ingres embodies a dream of ideal feminine beauty. As for Klee, his research into pure color was articulated through landscape and the immersion in light. It is the evolution of these two viewpoints, from the 1800s to the birth of abstraction, that this exhibition sets out to evoke.

Gustave Guillamet (1840-1887)

1. Gustave Guillamet- Women going to draw the water copy

Women Going to Draw the Water, between 1862 and 1887

Oil on canvas, 32 x 50,5 cm

Paris musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, inv. 75. 10487

Jean-Baptiste Paul Hippolyte lazerges, dit / known as Paul Lazerges (1845 -1902)

2. Jean Baptise Paul Hippolyte Lazerges - Dromedaries in the Oued 1895

Dromedaries in the Oued, / August 6, 1895

Oil on canvas, 46 x 55 cm

Private Collection Olivier Pesci, Paul Lazerges’s great- grandson

Armand Point (1860-1932)

3. Armand Point - Arab Horseman in the South

Arab Horseman in the South, 1887

Oil on canvas, 66 x 45 cm

Coutances, musee Quesnel-Moriniere, inv. D. 939.P.1; 005.5.19

Before his work took a Symbolist in 1894, Point was above all an Orientalist painter. Born in Algeria, he knew its landscapes by heart, and painted everything from the outskirts of Algiers to the desert at Bou-Saada, as here. His Arab Horseman in the South is, however, exceptional in the radicalism of its composition, far from literal realism. By the juxtaposed layers of pure color, by the intensity of its light, it breaks with illusionist space and heralds the experiments that led to abstraction at the turn of the next century.

Pascal Dagnan- Bouveret (1852- 1929)

4. Pascal Dagnan- Bouveret - Alleyway in Algiers 1888

Alleyway in Algiers, 1888

Oil on canvas, 41,5 x26,5 cm

Vesoul, musee Georges- Garret, inv. 971.1.71

Albert Marquet (1875- 1947)

5. Albert Marquet - The Golf Seen from Sidi-Bou-Said 1923

The Golf Seen from Sidi-Bou-Said, 1923

Oil on canvas, 49,5 x 65 cm

Private Collection, courtesy galerie de la Présidence, Paris

Albert Marquet (1875-1947)

6. Albert Marquet - Quiet Sea, Sidi-Bou-Said 1923

Quiet Sea Sidi-Bou- Said, 1923

Oil on canvas mounted on cardboard, 33,2 x 41,2 cm

Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, inv. P. 1975

A pupil of Gerome, the naturalist painter Muenier was awarded a travel grant and set out on a long trip to North Africa in 1887. He journeyed through Spain to Tangiers, and went from there to Algiers. Despite his artistic background, his views of Algiers oscillate between an illusionism based on simplified composition and rigorous geometry. In The Port of Algiers he leans more towards the second option. The almost monochrome quality of “Algiers the White” and the geometry of its architecture impelled him to strip his work of photographic likeness and human presence, thus anticipating the experiments of Marquet and Camoin.

Albert Marquet (1875-1947)

8. Albert Marquet - The Mosque at Laghouat 1939

The Mosque at Laghouat, / c. 1939

Oil on wood panel, 43,5 x 36 cm

Albi, musée Toulouse-Lautrec, on loan from the Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris-La Defense, /purchase from the artist, 1939, inv. FNAC 16269

In 1911, as he was about to set sail for Tangiers, Marquet wrote to Matisse: “I shall never be an Orientalist.” Then, in 1920 he met his wife in Algeria and after that spent every winter in the country. The mosque at Laghouat was one of his favorite themes, along with the harbour and its mazy streets. Here, no anecdotal motif was allowed to interfere with what interested him: geometrical simplicity and the light of the country. This canvas stands out for the freshness of its colors shades of white, pink and blue, in a transparent atmosphere that produces a watercolor-like effect.

Jules-Alexis Muenier (1863-1942)

7. Jules-Alexis Muenier - The Port of Algiers 1888 copy

The Port of Algiers, 1888

Oil on canvas, 46 x 32 cm

Paris, musee d’ Orsay, / gift of D. Schweisguth, 1895, R.F. 916

Theo Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926)

9. Theo Van Rysselberghe - The Mansur Gate in Meknes Morocco

The Mansur Gate in Meknes, Morocco, 1887

Oil on canvas, 40,5 x 61 cm

Madrid, collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, on loan to the Museo National Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, inv. CTB.200.57

This Belgian friend of Signac’s was one of the very few artists to apply the contemporary experiments of Divisionism to a vision of the Orient. A Neo-Impressionist, he translated the luminosity of Morocco into little dots of pure color, emphasizing the blue shadow in opposition to the solar yellows of the city of Meknes, north of the Sahara Desert. Nevertheless, the architecture of this gate in a city known for its imperial past, with its typically Islamic arch, interested the painter just as much as breaking down the light.

A Luminous Interlude

The emancipation of pictorial techniques in relation to the subject cannot be understood without the decisive steps taken by Impressionism. For Renoir, the discovery of the Orient was really an interlude in his career and did not have any real consequences; his trip to Algeria in 1881 came at a time when he was beginning to have doubts about Impressionist practices. Even so, it resulted in some very fine landscapes in which color and texture are increasingly free. Monet, who did his military service in Algeria, felt that he was re-experiencing the same kind of light when he travelled to Bordighera in Italy. It marks the beginning of his research into vibration and optical effects.

Pierre- Auguste Renoir

10. Pierre Auguste Renoir

 Renoir painted this landscape near Bir-Mourad-Rais when travelling in southern Algeria in 1881. The mystery of this wild woman, possibly a wretch who may have lost her children in the ravine, gave the artist little incentive to focus on exotic motifs. On the contrary, he painted a scene dense with scrub in blazing light and under an overwhelmingly high horizon. All that remains is the fluttering of small touches of swiftly dabbed colors, far from realism.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

11. Pierre Auguste Renoir - Field of Banana Trees 1881

Field of Banana Trees, 1881

Oil on canvas, 51,5 x 63,5 cm

Paris, musee d’Orsay, Acquisition funded by an anonymous Canadian donation, 1959, 1959-1

Charles Camion (1879-1965)

12. Charles Camion- The Anglican Church in Tangier 1912-1913

The Anglican Church in Tangier, 1912-1913

Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm

Private Collection

Theo Van Rysselberghe (1862- 1926)

13. Theo Van Rysselberghe - View of Meknes, Morocco 1887-1888

Views of Meknes, Morocco, /c. 1887-1888

Oil on canvas, 41 x 31,5 cm

Brussels, musée d’ Ixelles, / gift of Madeleine Maus, 1922, inv. O.M. 185

Albert Marquet (1875-1947)

14. Albert Marquet - Interior in Sidi-Bou-Said 1923

Interior in Sidi-Bou-Said, /c. 1923

Oil on canvas mounted on fabric-covered board, 40,7 x 32 cm

Le Havre, musée d’art moderne Andre- Malraux, Olivier Senn Collection, gift of Helene Senn-Foulds 2004, inv. 2004.3.49

Marquet painted a silhouette of his wife Marcelle during their honeymoon in Tunisia, posing inside the blue and white villa they hired on the heights of Sidi-Bou-Said. Borrowing a motif from his friend Matisse, he puts the emphasis on the decorative harmony in a vertical space rather than on the portrait. So it is that the checker pattern of the floor interacts with the grid of the window panes while the decorative scrolls of the blouse echo the arabesques of the faience and ironwork on the wall.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

15. Henri Matisse - Odalisque with Red Trousers 1924-1925 copy

Odalisque with Red Trousers, vers, / c. 1924-1925

Oil on Canvas, 50 x 61 cm

Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, R.F. 1963 -66

Albert Marquet (1875-1947)

16. Albert Marquet - Balcony with Striped Blind MG_7409

Balcony with Striped Blind, Algiers, / c. 1945

Oil on panel, 27 x22 cm

Plausu Collection, courtesy galerie de la Présidence, Paris

Emile Bernard (1868-1941)

17. Emile Bernard - Abyssinian Woman in Silk Robe 1895

Abyssinian Woman in Silk Robe, 1895

Oil on canvas, 114 x 74 cm

Paris, musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, / gift of Lucien Vollard / to the musée de la France d’outre-mer, 1944, / on loan to the musée des Années Trente de Boulogne-Billancourt, inv. 74.14390

Paul Klee (1879-1940)

18. Paul Klee- Innearchitektur copy

Interior Design, 1914

Watercolor, gouache, and chalk, 22 x 22,9 cm

Wuppertal, in Von der Heydt-Museum, / gift of Mrs. Charlotte Mittelsten Scheid in memory of her father Rudolf Ibach en /in 1991, inv. KMV 1992/9

Klee travelled to the Tunisian city of Kairouan in April 1914, on the recommendation of his friend Kandinsky. He was fascinated by the city’s scenery and geometrical architecture. His move towards abstraction the same year was the result of a genuine mystic experience: the sensation of being dissolved in light and color, of becoming one with them. This work from 1914 was inspired both by the buildings of Kairouan, with their arches and domes, and by the artist’s immersion in pure color.

The Orient Vanishes

Kandinsky goes from the geometry of Arab City in 1905 to the explosion of colors in Oriental in 1909. While we can still make out one or two figures in the landscape, the orchestration of colored forms is what dominates this composition whose lyricism presages the transition to abstraction. As in the paintings of Klee, the experience of the Orient led to the dissolution of the subject in pure color. Ultimately, Orientalism was conducive to a complete immersion in light and color.

Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

19. Kandinsky- Arabische Stadt (Arab City)

Arab City, 1905

Tempera on cardboard, 67,3 x 99 cm

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee National d’art moderne/ Centre de creation industrielle, Mrs Nina Kandinsky bequest, 1981, inv. AM 81-65-86

Vassily Kandinsky

20. Vassily Kandinsky - Oriental



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