Thursday, August 2, 2018

Anders Zorn in Algiers


In 1887, Anders Zorn painted a man and a boy on a balcony in Algiers.


The painting is a sensitive study in warm and cool colors. You can see from the "bead line" over the head below how he returned with a big wash of blue over the main figure to deepen the color of the sky.


Bonhams auction house tells how the painting came to be:

"In the New Year 1887, Anders Zorn and his wife Emma (née Lamm), travelled from Sweden to North Africa to spend the winter in Algiers. There were strong European influences in Algiers at this time, even a small circle of Swedes including the physician and author Axel Munthe. Zorn met up with his fellow artist Robert Thegerström and together they rented a 'Moorish' house with a roof terrace and inner courtyard in the old town, the Casbah, where they could paint figure studies using hired models. Zorn writes, '[We] rented for ourselves an Arabian house far up, where we could paint, and took on a servant, an Arab, who got models for us, which was otherwise quite difficult work.'


"The main reason for the trip to Algiers was that Zorn had a commission from the Swedish King Oscar II to paint something from the Golden Horn. The subject that he chose was 'the Arab women who came to a priest down in the harbour to be blessed. Then they usually went down some stairs to the water and removed the veil from their faces as long as they knew no-one was looking. I chose to paint this scene and made studies in the harbour with Algiers in the background and then painted the figures on our roof.'

"In a letter from Algiers, dated 17th March 1887, Emma Zorn writes to her mother, 'Today Anders finished the large picture. It is lovely and in my opinion one of the best things he has done.' The watercolour From Algiers Harbour is nowadays to be seen at the museum, Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde in Stockholm.

"In the present watercolour Zorn's interest in the strong and characteristic North African light is combined with his interest in exotic models and the use of traditional dress. A man and boy are sitting and standing in intense sunlight on what might be the roof terrace of the house rented by Zorn, looking out over the sea. The dark face of the man creates a strong contrast to his white dress. The colour scale keeps to light blue, grey and white, just as it does in many other of Zorn's pictures from Algiers. The scene invites an interpretation of Orientalism; however Zorn has also presented an everyday picture of life in the North African city.
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Book: Anders Zorn: Sweden's Master Painter 

9 comments:

Susan Krzywicki said...

Romantic and dramatic. I needed to read up a bit on the Golden Horn as I had forgotten what it was. This article talks about how the pollution has been addressed. Maybe there is hope for the world?

http://www.istanbultrails.com/2009/01/the-golden-horn-separates-the-european-shore-of-istanbul-into-two/.

James Gurney said...

I need to brush up on the Golden Horn, too. Wouldn't it be wonderful to get an assignment like that from the King?

Ruth Squitieri said...

Wow, that closeup of the man's face is to die for!

Why do you think he cropped off the boy's feet? Do you think that was on purpose, or did he ran out of paper (as I usually do when I do a full figure) especially when you see that the sky above the man's head is just a bit too much? That space could have been used towards the bottom for the feet by sliding the whole composition up a bit...

R. Wesley Nipper said...

What a great color study! This is really useful reference for a current project :)

jyaan said...

I assume because the man is the primary figure, not the boy

Ola Sarri said...

These are wonderful (I've seen the second picture in person and it's magical to behold). When Zorn finally made the switch to oils he pretty much gave up on watercolor for good, I guess he felt he had taken the medium as far as he could and wanted to liberate himself as an artist. His oils are often very textural and loose - I think as a result of his earlier watercolor work.

Steve said...

Two remarkable paintings. In the second one, I’m struck by how close in value and hue the water surface is to the woman’s clothing, yet how distinct they are. Zorn did several masterful paintings featuring expanses of water. I may be projecting my own interests here, but I’m guessing he loved and was fascinated by the abstract, shifting, curved blobs of shadow and bright light.

Glenn Tait said...

The man and the boy is an amazing watercolour. I love how he left the bead line. Looks like Zorn used gouache in the white robes, highlight areas on the mans face and what looks like a "milk" glaze over the man's arm. Do you know how big the original is?

Stephen Berry said...

I also would love to know the original sizes of these two paintings. I looked around, but couldn't find anything.