By Roger Benjamin
With an essay by David Prochaska
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was the only Impressionist artist to paint Orientalist themes, yet surprisingly little has been written about the two journeys he took to the French North African colony of Algeria in 1881 and 1882. There he created more than two dozen stunning works, depicting exotic scenes of ancient stone mosques, milling crowds at a festival in the Casbah, and spectacular palm fronds in the botanical garden--all rendered in his quintessential Impressionist style. This important book, published to accompany a traveling exhibition organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, assembles for the first time all of Renoir's Algerian paintings as a coherent body of work.
Handsomely illustrated and beautifully produced, the book situates Renoir's early studio Orientalism of the 1870s within the great tradition of French Orientalist painting. The artist's small group of odalisques and costumed portraits, strongly influenced by Delacroix's Moroccan work, constitutes some of the most sumptuous works of the genre. The book also discusses the landscapes and figure paintings Renoir completed in Algiers, several of which are previously unpublished, placing them in the context of the topography of the city and of the ethnography of its people. An essay exploring the Algeria beyond Renoir's canvases provides important historical and cultural background on the country and on the French presence there.
Renoir's Algerian paintings--sparkling with light and color--are supplemented with numerous period photographs, engravings, maps, and postcards. This fascinating study reveals new insights into the artist's efforts to negotiate an unfamiliar terrain and climate and to portray peoples and cultures far different from those for which he is best known.
176 pages, 9 x 12 inches
74 color and 83 black-and-white illustrations
Published in association with Yale University Press
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