Auguste Renoir
The Mosque

The Mosque
Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
The Mosque
1881
Oil on canvas
H. 73.5; W. 92 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

La Mosquée [The Mosque]


We do not know which festival Renoir was representing here in Algiers, set in the ancient Turkish ramparts destroyed several decades earlier by the French army. The scene is swarming with people, a happy crowd grouped around five musicians. In the distance, the cupolas and minarets of the Kasbah, appear, overlooking the blue water of the Mediterranean Sea.
For European painters, depicting Algerian customs and costumes enabled them to evoke another world, far from Europe. Images of ceremonies or festivals were particularly popular, especially if they included a musical element.

The rapid brushwork, with impasto in parts, has all the freedom of the Impressionists' style. In certain parts, people whose faces are not visible are replaced by simple dashes of colour, superimposed with vivacity.
The particularly bold composition makes it difficult to recognise the place where this gathering is being held. Still the visible details of the costumes (turbans), the white buildings and the vegetation take us into the unfamiliar atmosphere of the Orient. Here Renoir presents us with a pleasant, happy scene, a contrast to those austere scenes of a hostile desert or bloody combats. It is an original orientalism, filtered through the pictorial characteristics of Impressionism.




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