In the painting offered here, Washington depicts several nomadic horsemen finding respite from the relentless desert sun in a tropical oasis. This canvas showcases his distinctive and sensitive brushwork and ability to capture the blinding brilliance of the sunlight as it illuminates the vibrant robes, dazzling bridles and weaponry of the figures. This superb work not only exemplifies Washington’s expertise as an equestrian painter but also his knowledge and understanding of Arab customs and costumes which he witnessed firsthand during one of his many travels to the Middle East.
Georges Washington, born 15 September 1827 in Marseille and died November 19, 1901 in Douarnenez, was a French Orientalist painter. Like most aspiring artists, the young Georges Washington moved to Paris, where he trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under François-Edouard Picot (1786-1868). The artist’s exotic style was also indebted to Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Washington’s art conveys a similar feeling to the work of Eugène Fromentin (1820-76) who often painted naturalistic Middle Eastern scenes of rural and nomadic life. Washington’s love of the Middle East and its customs was further enhanced and encouraged by his father-in-law, the military and Orientalist painter Henri-Félix-Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815-1884), whose daughter Anne-Léonie Philippoteaux married Washington in Paris on 6th August 1859.
Not long after finishing his training at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Washington embarked on the first of a number of trips to Algeria and based on close observation of its inhabitants, their dress and customs in 1857 he made his Paris debut at the Salon des Artistes Français with a view of nomads titled Plaine du Hoiina (Sahara Algérien). From then up until 1901 Washington continued to be a popular exhibitor at the Salon; one of his first works shown there to gain critical acclaim was Nomades dans le Sahara en Hiver. In addition to Paris, Washington also showed his work in Moscow in 1881 and was later posthumously honoured when four of his paintings were included in the Exposition Coloniale de Marseille in 1906.
Following two commissions from a Belgian company, he travelled to Morocco and then subsequently visited Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, which were to inspire his varied subjects including battle scenes and cavalry skirmishes. His travels also took him to America for the unveiling in Philadelphia of a cyclorama (a monumental 360° panoramic view) of the Battle of Gettysburg by his brother-in-law Paul-Dominique Philippoteaux (1846-1923).
Following the death of his wife he retired to live with his daughter and son-in-law at Douarnenez on the Brittany coast, where he died shortly after on 19th November 1901.