The best dancer signed and dated 'Otto Pilny 1913' (lower right)
oil on canvas
120.5 x 185.5cm (47 1/2 x 73in).
Otto Pilny began his artistic education in Prague and lived in Vienna for a time before ultimately settling in Zurich. He travelled to Egypt twice, making his first visit in 1875 where he stayed for two years. He was so captivated by the landscape, people and their mores that he spent the rest of his career painting Orientalist works. He was particularly taken by the Bedouin customs and often travelled with them into the desert where he could sketch the evening entertainment which he would later use on his massive canvases. His second visit to the East was from 1889 to 1892. It was at this time that his work pleased the King of Egypt, Abbas II, and he was asked to decorate the order of the Medjidije.
The best dancer is a particularly virtuoso representation of one of the artist's favourite themes. The present lot is a fine example of the luminosity which is so typical of Pilny's work. As the sun sets, the silhouette of the dancer and her audience become clearer. The orange tones, unique to the desert sun, were of particular interest to the artist. Pilny retells the simplicity of Bedouin life by illustrating the enjoyment of the viewers. He also invites us to watch the almost life-size dancer by creating a direct line of sight to the performance without any obstructions. He was a prolific painter and fuelled by his love for the Orient he left behind a wide oeuvre in which the warm tones and vibrant atmosphere of tribal desert dominate the scene.