At one time, everybody from the middle class wanted a painting with such colour, beauty and exoticism in their living room. Orientalist painting was fashionable at the end of the 19th century and numerous European and, of course, Spanish painters jumped onto that bandwagon. Western themes had run out and there were no technical innovations, so the landscapes, customs and faces from the countries of north Africa erupted into art with a great deal of fascination and also imagination. Like every trend, however, it was later criticised for its supposed lack of veracity and authenticity.
The exhibition 'Fantasía árabe. Pintura orientalista en España (1860-1900)', which is on at the Thyssen Museum in Malaga until 1 March, reflects the importance of this pictorial genre with more than 80 works by artists such as Fortuny, Delacroix, Tapiró, Fabrés and Lameyer, among others.
The exhibition was inaugurated this week by Carmen Thyssen, and also present were the mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre; councillor for Culture Noelia Losada; and representatives of CaixaBank (Gerardo Cuartero) and Fundación La Caixa (Juan Carlos Barroso), the sponsors.
Baroness Thyssen described the display as a "journey in time" through 19th century orientalism, which Francesc Quílez, joint curator of the exhibition with Lourdes Moreno, described as having been "unfairly treated" in later years. Proof of this is that , in Spain, 30 years have passed since the last exhibition of these paintings which were so much in demand two centuries ago.
Not all the orientalist painters had been to the world on the other side of the Mediterranean. Their images were stereotyped, inspired by photographs and recreating situations with models who were not even from the region, and are included in this display. Traditional scene ssuch as the souks, snake charmers and provocative women in harems complete the works on display which were so coveted by the bourgeoisie in Spain.