Alfred Chataud Marseilles Biography and Paintings

Alfred Chataud Marseilles Biography and Paintings

Alfred Chataud Marseilles (1833 - 1908)


Alfred Chataud was one of the first painters to settle in Algeria, and although he died virtually unknown, he sowed the seeds of the artistic movement which was to become the School of Algiers in the 1920s. Chataud was the son of a banker, and his family intended for him to work in an insurance company; he even spent a period in training at La Nationale in Paris. He soon gave up the security of this future career and returned to Marseilles in 1857 to take lessons from Emile Loubon, who taught generations of Provencal painters. Back in Paris, he studied under Charles Gleyre and frequently visited the artists Paul Guigou and Adolphe Monticelli, both from the South of France. In 1856, Chataud made his first journey to Algeria, where his family had property. From then on, he made short stays in Algiers and the region of Böne, spending his winters in Paris and returning to North Africa at the beginning of summer. He went as far as Tunisia and Morocco on some of these journeys. Although he painted landscapes around Mantes (where he lived for seven years), Fontainebleau and the outskirts of Paris, the paintings he sent to the Salons both in Paris and Marseilles were almost exclusively of Algerian subjects. Inspired by the melodramatic pictures of Henri Regnault (he made a copy in 1873 of Regnault's second-year painting submitted from the Academy of France in Rome, Judith et Holopherne (Judith and Holophernes), he painted scenes of a fantasy Orient, such as Farniente (Farniente) (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Constantine), L'Eunuque endormi (Sleeping Eunuch) and Un drame dans le sérail (Incident in a Seraglio) (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles), taken from Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes. He soon abandoned this style, but was still interested in groups of figures, as can be seen from the picture illustrated on page 127 and Musiciens nigres Alger (Negro Musicians in Algiers) (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles). In 1892, Chataud was called to Algiers to settle a lawsuit over some property and decided to remain on a small family estate near Sidi Moussa. While he sent fewer and fewer paintings for exhibition in Paris, he was active in the creation in 1897 of the most important of the Algerian Salons, the Société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, of which he became vice président in 1904.


Chataud was particularly attracted to the old quarters of Algiers and Tlemcen, of which he made many small, often sketchy watercolours and drawings. These, such as Intérieur de mosquée (Interior of Mosque), Mosquée de Sidi-Abderrahman a Alger (SidiAbderrahman Mosque in Algiers) and Coin de maison mauresque (A Nook in a Moorish House), are simple studies of architecture and ornamentation, without any figures. Interested in Islamic art, Chataud made studies of jewellery, mosque lamps and Koran bindings.


It was Léonce Bénédite, the curator of the Musée du Luxembourg and founder of the Société des Peintres Orientalistes Francais in Paris, who was behind Chataud's first oneman show in Algiers. On an offcial visit to inaugurate Algiers' municipal museum, he was surprised that Chataud's talent was so little known. An exhibition was organised in the museum by the artist Fritz Muller, but Chataud died a month before its opening.


His work was shown posthumously at the Colonial Exhibition in Vincennes in 1931 and the Salon de l'Afrique Artistique Francaise in Paris in 1935, while Jean Alazard, the curator of the Musée National des Beaux-Arts of Algiers arranged another one-man show in the museum in 1937. Half of the one hundred and seventeen items in this last exhibition were lent by the greatest collector in Algiers, Frédéric Lung; others came from another art patron, Louis Meley. Since that time, Chataud's paintings had not seen until the 1982 exhibition in Marseilles, Les Orientalistes Provengaux.



Literature: G.S. Mercier, "Exposition rétrospective Alfred Chataud," Algeria, Paris, March 1937; J. Alazard, "Alfred Chataud, un Marseillais orientaliste," Cahiers du Sud, Marseilles, April 1937; J. Alazard, "Alfred Chataud," L'Art et les Artistes, Paris, October 1937.

Labels: famous artists biography
July 30, 2020
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