Armand Point and Islamic Architecture

About the Artist

Armand Point was born in 1861 in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. As he grew up, he would have been surrounded by a rich and varied culture – the architecture, landscape, beliefs and customs of the Arab world - in the largest port on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. At this time Algeria was a French colony, with trade routes across the world.

Originally from Burgundy in France, his family were not rich. His father, a plasterer, died during the cholera epidemic which swept Algiers in 1867, and his mother, a milliner, died in 1868 during a typhoid epidemic. Aged 7, the orphaned Armand went to live with his aunt. In 1870, aged 9, he was sent to the Collège Rollin in Paris where he showed a great talent for drawing, encouraged by his art teacher Auguste Herst, who was quite a well-known artist at that time. He won a certificate of merit in a drawing competition in 1877, and this confirmed his wish to become a painter. The following year, aged 17 and homesick, he left Paris and returned to Algeria.

He became the pupil and friend of a french artist, Hippolyte Lazerges (1817-1887) who painted frequently in Algeria. Armand painted scenes of local street life and domestic interiors. There were no regular opportunities to exhibit paintings in Algiers and so Armand and his friends showed their latest work in the windows of photographers’ studios in the city before sending them to exhibitions in Paris. The first painting that he sent to the prestigious Paris Salon in 1882 was bought by the State, which was a great success for a 21 year old artist.

In Paris and other European cities at that time, there was a great interest in the work of 'Orientalist' painters, meaning European artists who were inspired by North Africa and the Near East. These artists produced paintings of harems, baths, deserts, and markets, which fed Europe’s fascination with the 'mysterious' Orient. They recorded unfamiliar details of local life, people and architecture. Artists were also entranced by the bright, intense light effects of the region and the vivid colours so different from those of a cooler Northern climate.

Armand Point married in 1885, but little is known about his wife. Around 1889, he moved to Paris, making his home near Fontainebleau. After this move, his style altered dramatically. He was inspired by the English Pre-Raphaelite painters and the works of William Morris, and he developed a strong interest in the Symbolist Movement, which rejected realistic art, and aimed to revive the 'ideal art' of the Italian Old Masters, Botticelli and Leonardo. He formed a group of artists and craft makers and set up a workshop in the forest of Fontainbleau, where he lived until 1932. He died at the age of 71.

Armand Point lived and worked, near Paris in Fontainebleau

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