Friday, November 6, 2015

The Land of Thirst (1869)

Eugène Fromentin: The Land of Thirst

In this composition, made in the last years of the Second Empire, it is possible to compare an anecdotal representation of the desert to Guillaumet’s extreme simplicity. Like so many of his famous works, Fromentin’s composition is based on a story from one of his novels – in this case, a story at the end of Un Été dans le Sahara, originally published in 1857. These figures, abandoned in the desert, are literally expiring in our midst; the desert itself, as a powerful force of nature, is paramount in this representation. While the figures add an element of human interest, Fromentin has provided them with realistic (as opposed to fantastic) dress, perhaps in order to make more forceful the actual tragedy the viewer witnesses…The placement of the figures is meant to appear natural, but is in fact rather artfully composed. [John Zarobell, Empire of Landscape: Space and Ideology in French Colonial Algeria, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010, p. 147]

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