In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Eugène Alexis Girardet, “The Attack.”
A founding member of the French Orientalist movement in the late 19th century, Eugène Alexis Girardet(1853-1907) spent most of his career capturing the exotic lands of Algeria, Biskra, and Egypt. Often composed with an immense amount of detail and vivid color, Girardet’s most common subjects involved the lives of desert nomads — their culture, homes, journeys, and more.
Girardet’s fascination with the Orient began under the subject’s greatest champion, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), during the artist’s studies at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. Girardet’s original interest in art must have come from his family, which had a storied history in engraving and lithography. However, while the artist’s uncles, cousins, and brothers followed the family tradition in printmaking, Eugène found himself continually drawn to the brush.
Following Gérôme’s footsteps, Girardet left for Spain and Morocco in 1874 as an academically trained artist — full of energy, wonder, and imagination. The artist’s search for exotic lands introduced him to strange cultures and customs, which he delighted in capturing with his discerning eye. Scholar Janet Whitmore noted the monochromatic palette of the artist’s pictures during these early years, “very like the Realist palettes of Girardet’s Paris colleagues; and the subject matter is clearly in line with Realist ideals of depicting ordinary people going about their daily life.” However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the vivid colors and textures of Spanish and North African fabrics would cast an emotional and artistic spell on Girardet.
It was back in Paris, around 1877, when the artist — along with his mentor and other like-minded artists — created the Society of French Orientalist Painters. Along with Gérôme and Girardet, other members were Paul Leroy, Benjamin-Constant, and Léonce Bénédite (curator at the Musée du Luxembourg). Girardet and his fellow Orientalists would frequently exhibit at the Paris Salon and at their own hosted events. In 1900, Girardet had majors shows at the Exposition Universelle and the Coloniale de Marseille of 1906.
Collectors’ chance to own a brilliant piece by Girardet is upon us via Christie’s London, on September 8. A highlight of the house’s “19th Century European Art” sale, “The Attack” is a masterful, rushing, and dramatic image. The viewer is thrust along the flanks of an oriental cavalry, shown from the side, their swords raised as dust from the camel stampede billows from behind. Dated to 1894, the painting is a beautiful synthesis of the artist’s aesthetic evolution, displaying his favorite subjects and brightened palette. In addition, the light and details in texture are truly extraordinary.
“The Attack” will feature as Lot 115 during Christie’s “19th Century European Art” sale on September 8, 2016. Auction estimates are between GBP 20,000 and GBP 30,000 ($26,260–$39,390)
To view the full catalogue, visit Christie’s
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

Previous articleFeatured Artwork: Marian Fortunati
Next articleHistory, Mystery, and Discoveries
Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here