The Sidi Hassan Mosque, Tlemcen, Algeria

Robert Swain Gifford American

Not on view

Sanford Robinson Gifford is best known for his landscape scenes, but in his lifetime he was also celebrated for his "Orientalist" subjects. Gifford traveled to North Africa with his friend Samuel Colman in 1871 (Morocco) and again in 1875. In Algeria in 1875, Colman and Gifford painted side by side, and Gifford was probably influenced by Colman, who was a founder of the American Watercolor Society, to experiment with the medium. According to the inscription, Gifford painted this watercolor of the Mosque of Sidi Hassan in Tlemcen, Algeria, on March 29, 1875. He created a vertical composition to depict the height of the 13th century minaret, and carefully articulated the characteristic, decorative details of the architecture with a precise technique. At the top of the minaret, a stork is shown standing in a nest, a detail that seems to have been based on reality--a period photograph of the mosque dated ca. 1900, shows a stork nest in this spot. In the foreground, Colman exploits the rough texture of the sheet to indicate grass, which is broadly painted in shades of green and brown beneath a pale, overcast sky.

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