La Rochelle 1820 – 1876
Study of an Oriental boy in profile
Pencil, inscribed alger avril 1853 upper left and veste grise /passementerie noire / pantalon brun/ gilet blanc upper right.
151 x 194 mm – 6 x 7 5/8 in.
Provenance – Sale of the artist’s atelier, his stamp lower right with numbering 209(Lugt L.957).
Fascinated by the orientalist works exhibited by Prosper Marilhat in 1844 at the Salon, Fromentin made a first trip to Algeria in 1846 with his friend the painter Charles Labbé. It proved to be a revelation: “everything is beautiful, even misery, even the mud on the sandals – oh the children!” he wrote to his friend Paul Bataillard in a letter dated 14 March 1846. “Notwithstanding Marilhat and Decamps, Orient remains to be done” he added on March 22, an opinion which led to his second trip from September 1847 to May 1848. The many orientalist paintings he sent to the Salon met with such success that he commented: “Commercially, only Arab painting is expected of me”. At the end of 1852, he undertook a third trip with his young wife. The couple settled in Alger, from where Fromentin left for the desert, an experience he later described in his book Un été dans le Sahara (A summer in Sahara), 1856.
Probably coming from a travel notebook, this sheet has all the characteristics of a travel sketch intended to preserve the recollection of the things he saw and the impressions he had, with colour indications written down on the side to help his memory.