Alphonse-Étiénne Dinet (French, 1861-1929)
Cairo: Haze, Dust and Evening Smoke (Le Caire, Brumes, Poussières et Fumées du Soir) 1899
Oil on board, 14 1/2 x 29 1/2 in.
Signed lower left: E DINET
Following his trip to Egypt in 1897, Dinet painted two panoramic views of Old Cairo, one in the morning and the other in the evening, which were reproduced in Mirages:Scenes of Arab Life (1906), published by the artist and his friend Sliman ben Ibrahim. The evening painting, with its mirage-like view, haze, and rising smoke that dissolves the details of the citadel and numerous minarets across the skyline recalls the work of Claude Monet. Le Caire in fact is different from Dinet’s well-known Orientalist North African scenes of daily life, which favor a naturalistic approach. Like other naturalist painters, he was interested in plein-air painting and the effects of light, but executed his work in a manner more academic than the Impressionists, with attention to detail and a meticulous finish.
A pupil of Tony Robert-Fleury and William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Dinet became a devoted Orientalist after his first voyage to Algeria in 1884. Captivated by the country, he returned many times, learned the Arabic language, converted to Islam, and in 1904 settled in the town of Bou Saâda in the south of Algeria, where he continued to express the essence of life and emotions of its people.