Man and boy in Algiers signed, inscribed and dated 'alger 87/Zorn' (lower right) watercolour and bodycolour on paper laid down on board 48.7 x 34.7cm (19 3/16 x 13 11/16in).
In the New Year 1887, Anders Zorn and his wife Emma (née Lamm), travelled from Sweden to North Africa to spend the winter in Algiers. There were strong European influences in Algiers at this time, even a small circle of Swedes including the physician and author Axel Munthe. Zorn met up with his fellow artist Robert Thegerström and together they rented a 'Moorish' house with a roof terrace and inner courtyard in the old town, the Casbah, where they could paint figure studies using hired models. Zorn writes, '[We] rented for ourselves an Arabian house far up, where we could paint, and took on a servant, an Arab, who got models for us, which was otherwise quite difficult work.'
The main reason for the trip to Algiers was that Zorn had a commission from the Swedish King Oscar II to paint something from the Golden Horn. The subject that he chose was 'the Arab women who came to a priest down in the harbour to be blessed. Then they usually went down some stairs to the water and removed the veil from their faces as long as they knew no-one was looking. I chose to paint this scene and made studies in the harbour with Algiers in the background and then painted the figures on our roof.'
In a letter from Algiers, dated 17th March 1887, Emma Zorn writes to her mother, 'Today Anders finished the large picture. It is lovely and in my opinion one of the best things he has done.' The watercolour From Algiers Harbour is nowadays to be seen at the museum, Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde in Stockholm.
In the present watercolour Zorn's interest in the strong and characteristic North African light is combined with his interest in exotic models and the use of traditional dress. A man and boy are sitting and standing in intense sunlight on what might be the roof terrace of the house rented by Zorn, looking out over the sea. The dark face of the man creates a strong contrast to his white dress. The colour scale keeps to light blue, grey and white, just as it does in many other of Zorn's pictures from Algiers. The scene invites an interpretation of Orientalism; however Zorn has also presented an everyday picture of life in the North African city.
We are grateful to Johan Cederlund, Museum Director, The Zorn Museum for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.