This monumental painting is arguably the most sensational

4/7/2021, 7:53:39 PM
This monumental painting is arguably the most sensational work depicting Damascus by the German Orientalist artist Gustav Bauernfeind. The detailed execution and the vibrant use of colour truly capture the allure of the East. Bauernfeind was born in the town of Sulz-am-Neckar in Baden-ürttemberg, southern Germany. His education gave no indication that he would become one of the most accomplished artists of his era. Bauernfeind was truly enthralled by Damascus, its streets, its people and its buildings. He travelled the streets and, weather permitting, painted and sketched every day. He became a well-known figure in the city. While visiting the Umayyad Mosque for the first time, its monumental architecture made an enormous impression on him and wrote in his journal: "Have discovered a thankful subject: The gate of the Great Mosque. It will be difficult to paint it. If it is possible, I hope to create a beautiful painting" Clearly captivated by this structure, all the inspiration that this extraordinary and historical place of worship offered comes to a crescendo in the work. With his minute attention to detail he uses his paint to form a composition of near tangible reality. The architectural beauty offered the artist the ideal backdrop, challenging his skills of exactitude to the fullest. As a non-Muslim, Bauernfeind was not allowed to enter the holy site, so he bribed the guards to let him observe the comings and goings of the worshippers from the forecourt. The picture incorporates the doorway’s threshold, which is partly covered by a richly decorated carpet that divides the viewer from the spectacle, reinforcing the artist’s outsider status. Bauernfeind's masterful use of colour and light, his richly attired figures and his exceptional understanding of the architecture are all irrefutably present in this iconic work of Damascus and without doubt makes it the most monumental and sensational creations in the artist’s oeuvre. The Mosque was badly damaged by fire in 1893, making Bauernfeind’s picture a rare document of what it once looked like. Forecourt of the Umayyad Mosque: Damascus, 1890 by Gustav Bauernfeind. #arteesamor

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