Isidore Pils (French, 1813-1875)
Seated Arab, ca. 1861-62
Oil on canvas, 10 3/4 x 10 1/4 in.
Pils was commissioned to paint the reception of Arab chiefs by Emperor Napoleon III during the ruler’s visit to Algeria in 1860 (1867, untraced). Pils went there himself in 1861-62 to study the landscape and its population. The freshness and immediacy of this oil sketch of a seated man suggest it might have been created on the spot during that visit. Pils, along with his more famous colleagues, Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889) and Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), was one of the original three professors of painting installed at the École des Beaux-Arts in the momentous reforms of 1863. Before that date, only drawing was taught at the École, and students learned painting in private ateliers.