Eugene Fromentin (1820-1876)
Falcon Hunt ('Algeria Remembered'), 1874
Oil on canvas, 111 x 144 cm
Presented, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, 1950
By 1850-1851 Fromentin had established himself as a painter of landscape genre scenes of Africa. In the spring of 1874 he brought out new editions of his travel books, A Summer in the Sahara and A Year in the Sahel. In the accompanying preface of the former he tells how Algeria became the principal subject of his work - unexpectedly and to a greater extent than he ever wished. The two paintings that Fromentin sent to the Salon that year, Falcon Hunt and A Ravine, were both called Algeria Remembered and, as suggested by the title, both exhibits were nostalgic reminders of the artist's youthful journeys to North Africa.
Falcon Hunt is an extremely successful reworking of an earlier composition, Heron Hunt, a work similar in scale and composition. Here the action of the hunt becomes a secondary focus, while the grouping of three magnificently portrayed huntsmen on horseback creates a powerful and memorable image of the Orient.
Fromentin disliked the sketchiness of contemporary avant-garde artists - most probably the Impressionists, although he was never specific - and his work generally lacked spontaneity. Instead he favoured carefully thought-out composition, and a deliberate, finished style of execution.