National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

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Auguste Renoir
French, 1841 - 1919
1870, oil on canvas, 69.2 x 122.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Chester Dale Collection
Image: Auguste Renoir
Odalisque, 1870
Chester Dale Collection

Three years before Odalisque won a place in the Salon, an annual government-sponsored exhibition in Paris, the Salon jury had rejected Renoir's Diana. The same model, Lise Tréot, posed for both works. The female nude masked as a mythological subject had offended conservative jurors. But Lise's turn in Odalisque--overtly eroticized even though fully clothed--met with their approval. Such exotic fantasy proved to be popular during the 1870s.

Renoir's painting owes a considerable debt to Eugène Delacroix's Women of Algiers (Louvre, Paris, 1834). Delacroix traveled extensively in North Africa and subsequently produced paintings inspired by the region and its artifacts. Renoir first visited Algeria ten years after painting Odalisque. Objects represented in it, such as the ceramic ware, pillows, textiles, and clothing, were most likely European products inspired by Islamic designs. Renoir sought to invoke a mood rather than depict a specific time and place.

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