Gustave Achille Guillaumet (French, 1840-1887)
    Le labourage, frontière du Maroc, 1869
    Oil on canvas laid on masonite
    46 x 66-3/4 inches (116.8 x 169.5 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: G. Guillaumet 1869

    Private collection, New York;
    Private collection, acquired from the above, circa 1950s;
    By descent to the present owner, Long Island, New York.

    The exceptional expressive force of French artist Gustave Guillaumet's North African paintings separate them from the work of most other Orientalists of the late 19th century whose efforts are often more picturesque in nature. In this exquisite scene from 1869 depicting farmers laboring to plow the sandy Algerian soil near the Moroccan frontier, the fading light paints the sky with an ethereal glow just before the sun sinks below the horizon. Long shadows fall into the furrows of the recent plowing, and the magnificent white horse in the foreground, just unharnessed from the plow, stands in strict profile to the picture plane with a quietness that nearly resembles a relief sculpture as light glints off his coat. Guillaumet's subject is the culmination of a long hard day's work, and through the vast emptiness of his composition, Guillaumet stressed the insurmountable task of wrestling an existence from the harsh desert region. The particular combination of simplicity and grandeur, which characterizes so many of Guillaumet's paintings, give them an unusually modern quality of alienation.

    Guillaumet was a product of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which he entered in 1857. By 1861, he was a regular exhibitor at the French Salon. The following year, with an intention of continuing his studies in Rome, Guillaumet impulsively changed his course to North Africa. Although the artist suffered from numerous spells of malaria, this would be the first of ten trips he made to Algeria and Morocco over the course of his life.

    Profoundly inspired by the deserts of North Africa, Guillaumet exhibited his Prière du soir dans le Sahara at the Salon of 1863, which attracted so much attention that it was bought by the state and is currently owned by the Musée D'Orsay in Paris. This marked the beginning of a long, lucrative career, winning multiple medals and being awarded the title Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur.

    Although Guillaumet never took an anti-colonial stance in his writings about Algeria, in his paintings there is an understated drama being played out. His firsthand experiences in North Africa coincided with a crucial moment in France's policy toward Algeria, characterized by the shift from conquest to colonization. The wistful quality of beautiful emptiness in Guillaumet's landscapes points to an emotional awareness that the old ways were eventually going to fade away.

    Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000.

    Condition Report*:

    Framed Dimensions 53 X 72.75 Inches

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