Charles-Théodore Frère – Paris, 1814-1886
Charcoal on cardboard
15 x 26
Signed on the lower right: TH. FRÈRE
The carton painting is a study of a warrior or guard and is among the most characteristic paintings of Théodore Frère, one of the most famous French Orientalists of the Second Empire. The energetic and mellow stretch and the precise definition of the shadows evidence the solid academic background of the accomplished artist (he was a student, at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, of Jules Coignet and of landscape and figure painter Camille Roqueplan). Afterwards, during a journey in Algeria between 1836 and 1839, he converted to the Orientalist subjects.
His membership to the Orientalist current became definitive since 1851, when he left, for several years, for the Middle East. Passing through Malta, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, Frère established in Cairo, where he opened a studio around 1853 and was appointed court painter. The Khedivé of Egypt raised him to the rank of bey, making the artist known to contemporaries as Bay Frère. He specialized in landscapes, oriental cityscapes, market scenes and caravans in the desert, continuing even after his return to France, gaining the esteem and appraisal of Louis Philippe and of many other European royalties. He reached the peak of popularity in 1869 when he returned to Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal, as a member of Empress Eugenie’s suite, with other well-known Orientalists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, Narcisse Berchère, Eugène Fromentin, and Charles de Tournemine