Moonlight: Walls of Tangiers

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Moonlight: Walls of Tangiers

United States, circa 1913-1914
Paintings
Oil on canvas
25 7/8 x 21 1/4 in. (65.72 x 54.1 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection (48.32.46)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Following his 1910 trip to Morocco, Tanner painted many scenes of Tangiers and exhibited them in Chicago at Thurber Art Galleries in 1911 and in New York at M. Knoedler & Co. in 1913....
Following his 1910 trip to Morocco, Tanner painted many scenes of Tangiers and exhibited them in Chicago at Thurber Art Galleries in 1911 and in New York at M. Knoedler & Co. in 1913. Although Moonlight: Walls of Tangiers has traditionally been dated 1914, based on William Preston Harrison’s authority, the painting may have been executed earlier, for several of the works exhibited in 1913 have similar titles, in particular one painting entitled Moonrise: Walls of Tangiers. Although the North African locale provided the same exotic scenery incorporated in Tanner’s religious images, the Moroccan scenes are not religious. The elimination of a narrative may have assisted Tanner in his exploration of the formal aspects of painting, for it is just during these prewar years that his art underwent its last stylistic change. Tanner used his views of the streets, walls, and arcades of the city to explore the phenomena of color and light, not in an analytical manner as did the impressionists, but rather in harmony with both his own romanticism and turn-of-the-century tonalist trends in Europe and the United States. The Moroccan paintings are all vague, shadowy scenes painted in one predominant hue with thick, scumbled passages over rich glazing on a white ground. The blue and green palette of Moonlight: Walls of Tangiers has shades of yellow, peach, and purple. Tanner had begun to experiment with pigments and glazes around 1907 and by World War I was almost exclusively using the complex technique of layered glazes. Perhaps it was his renewed acquaintance with the Orient that enabled Tanner to develop the more resonant and colorful painting style characteristic of his art from about 1910 until his death in 1937.
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About The Era

After the centennial of 1876 the foremost place for American artists to show was no longer New York but Paris....
After the centennial of 1876 the foremost place for American artists to show was no longer New York but Paris. By the late nineteenth century the Paris Salon was the most important exhibition space in the Western world. Artists from many nations would submit their best works to its annual exhibition. The honor of being accepted presaged an artist’s future success. Thousands of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper were presented at each Salon; the exhibition halls were so crowded that paintings were hung to the ceiling with sculptures scattered about. To be hung “on the line” (at eye level) meant a work of art ranked among the best in the show. Since a painting might be skied (hung near the ceiling), many artists painted on a large scale to ensure that their work could be seen no matter where it was placed.
Contrary to earlier periods, American painting in the late 1800s was no longer dominated by a single aesthetic. Munich-school paintings—narrative scenes, often based on literature or history and painted in a dark palette—as well as small figure paintings in the realist tradition were popular in both France and the United States. Large portraits represent the academic style that dominated official taste during this era. Bright, sun-drenched scenes by a more progressive group of artists, the impressionists are diametrically opposite in color, mood, and concept to muted tonalist and symbolist works. Whereas the impressionists celebrated contemporary life with all its transformations, the tonalists and symbolists created hazily illuminated, dreamlike imagery.
Sculptures range from academic examples of idealized mythological imagery to expressions of the newer interest in the emotive potential of the human form. Equestrian bronzes by Frederic Remington demonstrate that at the turn of the century there was a continuing enthusiasm for heroic depictions of the West despite the increased internationalism of American taste.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.