The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand

MASSON Alexandre and the orientalism

Friday 18 December 2015, by Barbara Cogollos

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This orientalist painting of Alexandres Charles MASSON is so typical of this movement that was crossing Europe during the XIXth century. Victor HUGO said : « Since 1829, Middle East inspires the artistic scene from the XIXth century ». The increase in travel and some political events develop contacts with muslim world.

We know more ancient relation with the Middle East, such as the traduction of « A Thousand and one nights » by Antoine Galland in 1704. This book inspired many european artists.

Then, during the XIXth century, Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt and Jean François Champollion’s deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs fired the imagination of writers and artists who rediscovered this ancient culture and found inspiration for years to come.

Personalities such as Dominique DENON (diplomate and french engraver) goes to Bonaparte’s expeditions. He draws and paints events, people, places...

His work is later published « Voyages dan la haute et basse Egypte pendant les campagnes du général Bonaparte » in 1802.

Moreover, archeological discoveries will result in many books, publications and exhibitions.

With Greek independent movement, the Philhellenistic movement (strangers participate for the greec independance against Ottoman Empire) and the Greek revolution in 1821 : Europe is in an intense commotion and closely follows the events. It increase Artists inspiration for the Mediterranean.

In 1830, an historic event called « taking of Algiers » makes African borders famous. Many expeditions began from this capital in order to discover the Eastern world.

European artists find a way to discover the outsider and oneself through these orientalist images.

Many artists are influenced by Orientalism during the XIXth century such as : Ingres (La grande Odalisque 1814 ), Delacroix (Femmes d’Alger dans leurs appartements 1834), Majorelle etc.

Some of them has the chance to go to Middle East to catch up light, architecture, habits of this foreign part of the world... Our painting belongs to this part. They first start to paint Arabian battle scenes.

Orientalism in Europe is quickly a great success. Decorative Arts have also been influenced such as Emile GALLE creations based on models sent by Victor Prouvé from Arabian countries.

In 1893 has been created the Orientalist society of French painters who wanted to gether the colonial intervention, Middle East beauty and the powerful Third French puissance de la IIIe

Alexandre Charles Masson was a famous painter. He was born during the XIXth century in Paris. He has been fascinated by coastal landscapes such as Bretagne’s one (West coast of France). He also painted sea coasts and elegant women.

He’s also been influenced by the Middle East. Our painting is a rare example of his orientalist work.

He has painted women weaving or sewing in Arabian interiors.
Our painting is a good example of what an orientalist artist would have liked to catch up into his work : light, architecture, habitant’s behaviours...

Alexandre Charles MASSON often exhibited at the French Artist Salon.
This painting shows and represents the huge influence of the painting movement which has influenced many artists during an whole century.

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