A stunning ode to the Egyptian landscape, this oil on panel was composed by the French Orientalist painter Charles-Théodore Frère. He was among the very first French artists to devote themselves to Orientalist themes, and his lively works adeptly translated the romanticism of the East for a Western audience. The present work, which captures a market on the outskirts of Cairo, exemplifies his distinctive approach as he brilliantly translates the energy and atmosphere of the desert city. His meticulous consideration to the people, customs and landscape in his paintings has made them among the most desirable Orientalist compositions ever created.
Frère’s style is almost impressionistic in his handling of light and atmosphere. In Marché au Caire, he brilliantly captures the effects of the clouds of sand in the distance, creating an air of obscurity and haze where the caravan tramples through the city. Rendered in earth tones punctuated by jewel-like reds and blues, the palette itself has an exotic feel, as Frère perfectly renders the colors of the desert oasis. The great plein air painters Claude Monet and Eugène Boudin were among those artists who admired Frère for the warmth and light in his canvases, and this is a beautiful example of his mastery.
Born in Paris in 1814, Frère first discovered the appeal of the Orient early in his career during a trip to Algeria in 1837. Visions of the Algerian landscape would be present in nearly all of the works he exhibited at the Salon until 1851, when he again departed for the East. Frère set out from Malta to Constantinople, where he stayed for 18 months, and then continued onwards to Syria, Palestine, and finally Egypt, where he set up a studio in Cairo.
In 1869, Frère was honored as one a group of leading Orientalist artists, including Jean-Léon Gérôme and Narcisse Berchère, who were invited to join the entourage of Empress Eugénie for the opening of the Suez Canal. As equally beloved by Egyptian collectors as Western patrons, Frère was eventually honored with the title of Bey by the Egyptian government. Other examples of the artist’s work can be found in public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Bowes Museum (Newgate).
Panel: 9 3/4″ high x 15 3/4″ wide
Frame: 22 1/4″ high x 27 5/8″ wide