Head of a Moor, 1870

 

Staged in Tunis by Henri Regnault,  1843-1871, French, with the co-operation of a local.

This romanticizing and heroic style has contributed to the oriental exoticism which infects French popular views to this day and, with the idea that French colonialism had a civilizing mission, has helped hinder a widespread understanding of the effects of French colonialism (except, perhaps, in the case of Algeria).   This might help unravel French racism.

That this obtuseness is unfortunate in today’s France, facing as it is an ascendant and virulent National Front and a large multi-confessional, multi-ethnic population living in France, seems to me inarguable even if this statement is an unintended slight to the extraordinary skills of this artist, Henri Regnault, who died very young fighting for his country in the Franco-Prussian War (1871).

 

The Corcoran Collection of The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. 2014

 

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