Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps

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Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps
1803-1860
Seated Arab
Black chalk with white opaque paint, and tamped with oil on olive-green wove paper.
11 7/8 x 8 7/8 inches (298 x 222 mm)
Gift of Roberta J.M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson.
2021.134
Inscription: 

Initialed by the artist at lower center, on a stone block, DC.

Provenance: 
Count Christian Humann-Guilleminot (1929-1981), New York; Colnaghi Gallery, London; Roberta J.M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson.
Notes: 

Descamps was one of the first European artists to travel extensively through eastern North Africa and convincingly portray quotidian scenes in authentic settings. His travel experience provided substantial material for his successful career in Paris. Disdainful of the Academy, Descamps deployed a naturalistic approach to his genre scenes. The structure of North African houses, with their shady passageways and inner courtyards that contrast dramatically with areas illuminated by the brilliant sun, challenged Descamps. To capture the lighting effects the artist experimented with unconventional techniques, and the rough, impasto surface of the drawing reveals the influence of old masters such as Rembrandt. While Descamps choice to depict a man seated quietly outside his home for this chiaroscuro study seems innocuous, it also fulfilled a contemporary European vision of North Africans as indolent.

Associated names: 

Humann, Christian, 1929-1981, former owner.
Olson, Roberta J. M., former owner.
Johnson, Alexander B. V., former owner.

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