Visiting and “revisiting” the Orient
From the early 19th century, aided by new transport technologies such as steam trains and railways, more and more European artists – and somewhat later, photographers – ventured into the Arab and Ottoman world and North Africa. They went in search of the fabled locations, exotic scenery and colourful people popularised in Europe by prominent travellers who had gone before them and who subsequently had eternalised their experiences in published diaries, spell-binding travelogues, narratives, or indeed artworks. While most of the artists and photographers spent relatively short periods in the region, during their travels, they nevertheless collected innumerable sketches, drawings and, sometimes, photographs. Back home, their fieldwork formed the basis of extensive bodies of Orientalist works, often executed over many years, and eventually only vaguely relating to the reality they had experienced on their travels. Fantasy also characterised many of the architectural projects inspired by the “Orient” – be those in the form of pavilions and palaces, mansions in garden settings, commercial complexes, or indeed lavish interiors reminiscent of those evoked in the The Arabian Nights.
Journal de Delacroix (Tome I)
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Musée national des Beaux-arts, Alger, Algeria
Delacroix, E., Flat, P., Piot, R.
Few European artists influenced the European image of the “Orient” more extensively than the French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863). Delacroix travelled widely in Morocco and Algeria and subsequently made more than 100 artworks based on what he saw (or imagined he saw).