Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Egypt and North Africa, 1800–1900 A.D.

Ottoman rule, 1555–1830
French occupation, 1830–1962
Qaramanlis, 1711–1835, under Ottoman rule, 1835–1911
Alawid/Filali sharifs, from 1664
Husaynids, 1705–1881, under Ottoman rule to 1881
French occupation, 1881–1956
Ottoman rule, 1517–1805
Muhammad c Ali line, 1805–82
British occupation, 1882–1922


Encompasses present-day Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia

Supplemental Maps

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Ottomans maintain nominal control over their provinces of Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, though local dynasties continue to hold power in day-to-day affairs. Most prominent is the ruler Muhammad cAli in Egypt (r. 1805–48), who secures the right to hereditary rule for his family and maintains a semi-autonomous status which lasts until 1882, the date of the British occupation. Muhammad cAli initiates a series of military, economic, and administrative reforms, relying on the expertise of French and Italian advisors. He intends to build Egypt into a modern state. These reforms are followed by legal and educational transformations under Ismacil Pasha, better known as Khedive Ismacil (r. 1863–79), and modeled on the reforms implemented by the Ottoman rulers in Istanbul. Muhammad cAli demonstrates an interest in the arts and sends educational missions to Europe to learn engraving, painting, and sculpture. Upon their return, these students teach at the technical schools. He also employs Western architects to erect buildings in Cairo in the Europeanizing style. At this time, European Orientalists including Eugène Fromentin, John Frederick Lewis, and Jean-Léon Gérôme visit Egypt. Under Khedive Ismacil, Egypt becomes virtually independent of the Ottoman empire. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, exposure to Western culture increases. The khedive invites the emperor of Austria, Empress Eugénie of France, the crown prince of Prussia, as well as writers and artists such as Théophile Gautier, Émile Zola, and Henrik Ibsen to the opening ceremonies. He inaugurates an Opera House in Cairo in the same year and commissions sculptors to create large-scale public works of himself, the princes, and elite in Cairo and Alexandria. He also orders European-style paintings for the urban and rural palaces. Ismacil builds an elaborate compound for the Parisian exposition of 1867; a strong presence at the 1873 and 1878 world's fairs in Vienna and Paris follows.

The kings of the Alawid/Filali line continue to rule independently in Morocco. Morocco is the only North African country that was neither conquered nor governed by the Ottomans. As an independent state, its power is divided between the sultans in the urban areas and the tribal and Sufi leaders in the countryside. As European trade increases, Moroccan industries cannot compete with those of Europe, and the opening of the Suez Canal and French expansion into West Africa make the trade routes through Morocco obsolete. Sultan Hasan ibn Muhammad (r. 1873–94) introduces military, administrative, and infrastructural reforms, but these prove unsuccessful due to strong opposition by religious and political elites, thus paving the way for French colonization between 1899 and 1912. Moroccan presence at the world's fairs is modest. Morocco preserves its own distinct Berber tradition until the French colonize it. European expansion instigates a growing interest in North African culture. Several Orientalist painters come to Morocco, the most renowned being Eugène Delacroix, who visits in 1832.

Between 1832 and 1890, the French gradually take control of Algeria. Despite a number of uprisings and sporadic revolts, Algeria is incorporated into France, its administration reorganized and a new educational system introduced. Eugène Delacroix visits Algeria in 1832 and a number of French Orientalists follow in his footsteps. As a result, European easel painting is introduced and artistic societies are founded. In the second half of the century, French Impressionists, including Monet and Renoir, visit Algeria and organize annual salons in Paris, where they display their work. The most important French artist to influence the beginning of Western art in Algeria is Alphonse-Étienne Dinet (1861–1929). Algeria's presentation at the world's fairs is elaborate.

Tunisia also attempts a series of Westernizing reforms modeled on those of Muhammad cAli of Egypt. These are launched by Ahmad Bey (r. 1837–55) and Khayr al-Din (r. 1873–77), who also arrange displays at the 1867, 1878, and 1889 world's fairs. French involvement in Tunisian affairs increases as Tunisia modernizes. The French eventually occupy Tunisia in 1881. During the occupation, the French authorities found the Institut de Carthage, which becomes the leading scientific and cultural institution in the colony. In 1894, the Institut de Carthage organizes the first Salon Tunisien in Tunis. In the next century, Libya too will fall into European hands.

    • 1801 The French withdraw from Egypt after British intervention. Many of the artifacts that Napoleon collected while in Egypt end up in Britain after France's defeat; among the objects now in London is the Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799. The French role in the study of Egyptian art and architecture will remain important though, with the publication of the magisterial Description de l'Égypte (1809–22), which describes and illustrates the ancient and Islamic monuments of the country as documented by Napoleon's engineers.

    • 1805–48 In the upheaval caused by the French defeat, Albanian military leader Muhammad cAli seizes power in Egypt, becoming governor-general of the Ottoman province and ruling for the next forty-three years as a semi-independent dynast. He works to rebuild Egypt as a modern industrial and military power, establishing schools for engineering, medicine, agriculture, administration, and military training. He is sent by the sultan in 1811 to restore order in the Arabian Peninsula, but then rebels himself, conquering the Sudan in 1822, Syria in 1831, and marching on Istanbul in 1832. The Ottomans halt his approach with foreign military aid, and in the peace settlement grants him temporary governorship of Syria and Crete, with permanent hereditary rule of Egypt. His descendants take the special title of khedive. During his reign, European artists David Roberts and Jean-Léon Gérôme visit Cairo; Egyptian artists training in Europe bring back with them Baroque and Rococo influences that appear in the contemporary architecture of Cairo. The mosque Muhammad cAli builds in the Mamluk citadel of the city (1820–57), though, imitates the local Ottoman style.

    • 1830 The French occupy Algeria; the head of the Sufi Qadiriyya order, cAbd al-Qadir, leads the resistance until his exile in 1847. Painter Eugène Delacroix visits with the new French ambassador, the comte de Mornay, in 1832.

    • 1835 The School of Arts and Design opens in Egypt.

    • 1835 The Ottoman sultan removes the last Qaramanli from power in Tripoli (Libya) after growing local dissatisfaction.

    • 1851 The Société des Beaux-Arts of Algeria is founded; its members are restricted to artists of French origin.

    • 1863–79 In 1867, the Ottoman sultan confers on Ismacil Pasha the title of khedive, giving him a special position in the empire and allowing him to sign independent technical and economic agreements with foreign powers. During the early governorship of Khedive Ismacil in Egypt, the country prospers. Egyptian cotton is in demand as American supplies are reduced during the Civil War, and the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal increases Egypt's role in international trade. The canal is inaugurated with great fanfare and with the attendance of many foreign dignitaries, though the performance of Verdi's Aida, commissioned for the event, is held later, in 1871. Many European tourists flock to the country, supporting a new market for inlaid metalwork and other copies of ancient artifacts. Their interest in local art is paralleled by Ismacil's interest in European art, which increases after he visits Paris in 1867. Ismacil builds an extensive compound for the Parisian exposition of 1867, which he visits. Soon, however, his reliance on foreign loans causes bankruptcy, and he is forced to sell rights to the Canal to the British in 1875. Britain takes control of the country's finances in 1876, and three years later Ismacil is deposed.

    • 1878 At the Congress of Berlin, France is granted control of Tunisia, which becomes an official protectorate in 1881 and receives a French resident-general in 1884. Britain acquires other territories.

    • 1879 Northern Algeria is declared part of France, but Algerians are permitted only limited rights. They cannot obtain French citizenship without renouncing Islam, they are not allowed to hold public meetings, and they cannot move about the country.

    • 1882 Britain intervenes to halt popular uprisings against the khedive, then occupies Egypt and takes it as a protectorate. Lord Cromer is installed as the British proconsul, and he governs until 1907.

    • 1891–97 The Orientalist painters living in Egypt hold an exhibit at the Opera House, Egypt's first. Among the artists represented are Ralli, Rasengy, Bogdanol, and a few Egyptian painters. French Orientalist painters of Algeria also organize an annual salon in Paris where they exhibit their work. In 1897, the Société des Peintres Algériens et Orientalistes is founded in Algiers.

    • 1900 The Musée d'Algers opens.