Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France

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Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863) Arabes d'Oran (Arabs of Oran), 1833 Etching Charles F. Olney Fund, 1998.11

This etching by the famous Romantic painter Delacroix represents one of the many approaches used in the 19th century for “documenting” the peoples and places of France’s expanding colonial empire. The French military conquest of Algeria, begun in 1830 and largely completed by mid-century, opened the way for French and European travelers and settlers seeking new experiences and eco-nomic opportunities in this major French overseas colony. The visual arts in this period both reflected and inflected Western imperialist attitudes towards indigenous popula-tions. Delacroix’s etching, like the photograph by amateur photographer and aristocrat Count de Beaucorps displayed nearby, casts an exoticizing gaze upon the inhabitants of Algeria, depicting them not as they were, but as Western-ers imagined them to be.