Armand Point and Islamic Architecture

Other Artists Inspired by North Africa

Over the course of the 19th Century North Africa was gradually brought under European control, beginning with the French colonisation of Algeria in 1830. Investment from Britain, France, and later Germany, poured into the region and was matched by huge public fascination for 'the Orient', (meaning North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and the Holy Land). Increasing numbers of European visitors, including many artists, flocked to the region as the century progressed. Many guidebooks and travelogues were produced, and eventually travel was made easier by railways and Thomas Cook's tours, which began to touring to Egypt in 1861.


In Paris and other European cities at that time, there was a great market for 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.


Unlike many of the artists who visited North Africa, Armand Point was born and raised there. His paintings of Algeria were observations of daily life, people, architecture and local culture. 

Compare his work with that of these other artists who were inspired by North Africa (see also the Related Links at the bottom of the page for further information):

Eugene Delacroix 

French painter Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) was one of the first European artists to visit North Africa, spending six months in Morocco and Algeria in 1832. He was invited to accompany a diplomatic mission from the French government to the Sultan of Morocco, and on his travels he filled sketchbooks with drawings and notes, which he later used to make paintings back in the studio.

Delacroix's visit had a lasting impact on his work. He was fascinated with Oriental subject matter, and with the strong complementary colours he had encountered in North Africa. His 1834 painting The Women of Algiers in the Apartment shows three women relaxing in the harem with their servant. The warm, opulent interior glows with colour, creating a relaxed and sensual mood. Delacroix enjoys painting the rich decoration of tiled walls, mosaic floor, rich rugs and textiles, as well as the flesh and costume of the female figures.

Henri Matisse 

Paintings of Odalisques (from the Turkish word odalik, meaning belonging to the chamber) in the harem (meaning forbidden) were one of the main attractions of the Orient for Western audiences. The harem would generally be barred to Western men and so images of sensual, exotic women unfettered by Western etiquette were often conjured from the imagination.
Before he ever set foot in Africa, Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954) had been interested in Islamic art. The colourful tiles and textiles of Islam had been the building blocks of his new concept of decorative painting, in which he sought to release painting from the role of merely describing the external world. He studied Islamic rugs to learn about abstract colour, and borrowed patterns from Islamic textiles to transform domestic scenes into grand designs.
He visited Morocco briefly in 1906, and again twice in 1912. He was inspired by the strong simplification and abstraction of Islamic art and wanted to integrate these elements into his own work.

Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley (born 1931) travelled to Egypt in the winter of 1979-1980, visiting the Nile Valley and the Valley of the Kings. In the Cairo Museum she was surprised by the consistent use of a certain group of colours in the arts and crafts of ancient Egypt; and the tomb paintings on the West Bank of Luxor showed her the full extent to which these colours had been used.

On her return to London she began to work with the strong colours of an 'Egyptian palette', which she recalled from memory. She used a set of five colours: brick red, ochre yellow, blue, turquoise and yellow-green, which dominated her work for the next five years.
Before this visit, Bridget Riley had been making paintings in gouache, with wavy horizontal lines or twisted, diagonally curved lines. The sheer energy released by the colours of her 'Egyptian palette' led her back to simpler compositions using vertical stripes. She also chose to work in oil again, for the first time since her very earliest work, because oil paint allowed her to capture the sheer brilliance of the colours she remembered from Egypt.


See Related Links below for further information.

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