Charles Théodore Frère was born in Paris on 21st June 1814. As a young man he showed a strong inclination towards painting as a career, despite his father’s hopes that he would become a musician. He studied under the landscape artist Jules Coignet (1798-1860) and then under Camille Roqueplan (1803-1855). On completing his apprenticeship he travelled extensively in France, exhibiting at the Salon for the first time in 1834, and again in 1835 and 1836.
A visit to Algeria in 1837 changed the course of his life. He exhibited his first Orientalist painting at the Salon in 1839 and from then on painted only scenes of the Muslim world. He stayed in Algeria for a year, painting several large pictures, which were later bought by King Wurttemberg. He appears to have travelled almost annually to Algeria until about 1850. In 1851 he journeyed further East, stopping at Malta, Greece and Smyrna on his way to Constantinople where he stayed for eighteen months. He then went on to Syria, Palestine, Nubia and Egypt, where he had a studio in Cairo. After three years travelling Frère returned to Paris laden with material for future paintings. He took part in the Paris Universal Exhibitions of 1855, 1867 and 1878. He made his last journey to Egypt in 1869 for the inauguration of the Suez Canal in the company of Empress Eugénie and her entourage.
Frère’s talent and appeal lies in his ability to create atmospheric scenes, for example Bedouin encampments silhouetted against dawn and sunset views.
Frère died in Paris on 24th March 1888.
Nancy (Arabes au Repos), Bagnères (La Caravane), Laval (Vue de Karnac & Ruines de Louqsor), Reims (Caravane Traversant le Désert d’Arabie), Bourges (Le Soir sur les Bords du Nil), Mulhouse (Chameliers au Caire & Rue au Caire), New York (MetropolitanArt Museum), Chicago, Minneapolis
Benezit Vol. IV p517 (1976)
Thieme Becker p427 (1927)
Lynne Thornton ‘The Orientalists’, ACR Edition, 1983, pp52-54