Emir's meeting

Gustave Boulanger – singer of ancient legends and Bedouin everyday life

Emir's meeting
Emir’s meeting


Gustave Boulanger is a 19th century French painter, skillful and flamboyant orientalist. Gustave Boulanger’s paintings are recognized as the best examples of academic art. He devoted his creative broography to historical, mythological and romantic-oriental subjects.

Gustave Boulanger adhered to the classical school. He sincerely hated impressionism, never changed the canons of his direction. He promoted his own views among numerous students while teaching at the famous Institute of France, which united five national academies.

Woman with a jug
Woman with a jug

Biography of Gustave Boulanger

Gustave Boulanger is a native Parisian. He was born in 1824, in a sunny spring, on April 25. Biographers do not indicate who the artist’s parents were. Perhaps he came from among the ordinary townspeople. It is only known that in 1838 he was left an orphan, in the care of his uncle. It was he who identified the young nephew in the studio of the famous artist and lithographer Pierre-Jules Jollivet. The next teacher of the teenager was the no less famous academician who worked in the direction of historical painting, Paul Delaroche. Under the influence of the school of famous masters of their time, the worldview of the future genius of salon art was formed.

Orientalism interested the young Gustave Boulanger after visiting Algeria in 1854. The name of the direction comes from the word “eastern” (lat. Orientalis). It began with an acquaintance with the culture of Turkey and the countries of North Africa. The interest was promoted by the French conquest of Algeria, Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, and the development of European colonialism. The painters were interested in exotic subjects, style, motives, creating paintings that reflected the romanticized oriental life. Harems, baths, slave markets, deserts, Bedouins attracted particular attention. They portrayed not the real East, but the idea of ​​”how they should be.” A striking example of this trend is the erotic scene “After the Bath”, written in 1867.

Gustave Boulanger, A Tale from a Thousand and One Nights
A Tale from a Thousand and One Nights

The legends of the ancient world captured Boulanger no less.

He received a significant award for the painting “Eureklea is the first to recognize Odysseus”, presenting it at the 1854 exhibition. Having highly appreciated the artist’s talent, he was sent at public expense to the Apennine Peninsula, where he studied ancient subjects for two years. Napoleon III was delighted with his works, giving him the opportunity to paint his own palace. Many of the frescoes that adorn the interiors of the Paris Opera Garnier – the world’s most famous theater of opera and ballet art, created by the architect Jean-Louis-Charles Garnier – also belong to the brush of Gustave Boulanger.

Gustave Boulanger turned 54 when he took the prestigious teaching position of the French Institute. He brought up many glorious successors of the classical direction of painting, until the end of his days he fought against the fashion trends of impressionism. Died Gustave Boulanger, having lived 64 fruitful years, in October 1888. The exact date of his repose is unknown.

Arabian rider, Gustave Boulanger
Arabian rider

The most famous paintings by Gustave Boulanger

The paintings of Gustave Boulanger amaze with a variety of subjects. He created images of famous people, characters of the ancient epic, carefully worked out large-scale scenes with many human figures, exotic interiors and clothes. The most famous of his works:

  1. “Phryne” (1850) – depicts a real Athenian hetaira, a model of the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles, painter Apelles.
  2. “Portrait of Casimir le Conte” (1856) – the famous French banker, entrepreneur, founder of the Paris-Orleans railway company, renowned economist and millionaire.
  3. “He is the Emir” (1870) is a dynamic scene of the arrival of the famous traveler on an Arab stallion to a Bedouin dwelling.
  4. The Return (1871) is a popular work by the master, depicting the hard life of the Bedouins.
  5. “Pleasant Leisure in the House of Lucullus” (1877) – dedicated to the theme of the famous Lucullus feasts, which have become common nouns to denote generosity and abundance.
  6. The Slave Market (1882) – known for numerous reproductions, including in the history textbook of the Soviet period. Served as an example of the bleak fate of slaves.
This is the emir
This is the emir
Consent, Gustave Boulanger
Return, Gustave Boulanger
Slave market
Slave market