Eugène Delacroix (Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798–1863 Paris)
North African Man and Woman with Baskets of Vegetables and Fruit, ca. 1853
Pastel on paper
8 9/16 × 12 1/2 in. (217 × 317 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo by Joseph Coscia Jr.
In 1832, two years after the French subjugation of Algeria, Delacroix embarked on a six-month-long expedition to North Africa. During these travels, the chromatic effects of pastel, its speed of execution, and the ease of carrying it became particularly appealing to Delacroix, and his interest in the medium never waned nor did his fascination with North Africa. Probably made in Paris some twenty years after his North African trip, this drawing belongs to a series of works that often forego geographical specificity and ethnographic accuracy. Reflecting an “Orient” of the artist’s own making, they have as much to do with the taste of European audiences as with the realities of North Africa. One of twenty pastels of a North African subject, this is one of just a dozen pastels by Delacroix to bear a signature: usually highly finished works, his signed pastels were often given away by the artist as gifts or sold as independent works of art.
Curator's Personal Reflection
Speaker: Giulio Dalvit, Assistant Curator of Sculpture
Delacroix went to North Africa in 1832, and from then on, he used his sketches as a source for visual ideas on which to base an “Orient” of his own. Mystery plays a big part in this. Who are this man and woman? While her clothes may suggest that she’s Jewish, the man’s suggest that he’s Muslim. Are they together—talking, trading? Could she be retreating from a flirtation that has gone a step too far? What are the fruits and vegetables doing there—and the whisk broom on the wall? What’s in the box under the man’s arm? And finally, where are we? Are we looking at mountains in the background or the sea? Is this the wall of a house? Nonetheless, it looks like the middle of nowhere. For me, this is a drawing about the desire to know more, and the frustration of knowing too little.