Artwork Detail

Arab Warriors
c. 1870s
German, 1828–1899
Oil on canvas
18 3/4 x 32 7/8 "
Bequest of Charles Parsons, 1905
WU 2077
With the increase in travel by steamship and the political involvement of European powers in North Africa and the Middle East in the nineteenth century, paintings depicting the scenery, daily life, and customs of North African and Middle Eastern people became an object of fascination among European and American audiences. The German artist Christian Adolf Schreyer, one of the best known of the so-called Orientalist painters who specialized in these foreign scenes, was particularly renowned for his lively depictions of horses. Schreyer traveled to Egypt and Ottoman Syria in 1859 and to Algeria in 1861; during these trips he learned various Arabic dialects and immersed himself in local culture, including riding with Bedouin nomads. In Arab Warriors he used rich tones and bold brushwork to convey the frenetic atmosphere of the men charging forth on horseback. Such paintings earned Schreyer acclaim and supported the popular romantic notion of Bedouins as noble, brave, and fierce warriors. Rather than purporting to offer precise ethnographic detail as some Orientalist painters did, Schreyer emphasizes here the expressive energy of the charge. [Permanent collection label, 2016]