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 Ernst Rudolf  (1854 - 1932)

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Lived/Active: Austria/France/Germany      Known for: middle eastern figure and genre paintings-Orientalist

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Best known for Ottoman Empire paintings of elaborately costumed merchants, guards or sentinels and pashas as well as a few portraits from his 1890 travels in Turkey, Rudolf Ernst was a leader of the second generation of the Orientalist movement and the leader of the movement in his native country of Austria.  Initially the movement had been focused on life-changing political events such as the liberation of Greece and Napoleon's march through Algeria.  The second generation of painters such as Ernst and his friend, Ludwig Deutsch, were more interested in daily life genre scenes or static figures 'keeping the peace'.

Because of his use of photography on his travels through Moorish Spain, Morocco, Tunis Constantinople and Egypt, he had detailed records, now of historical value, for the clothing and settings he depicted for his subjects.  On these trips he became especially mindful of decoration styles, especially tile making.  Among the titles of his paintings are: Harem Guard, The Arab Prince, The Moorish Guard and Elegant Arab Ladies on a Terrace at Sunset.

Rudolf Ernst was born in Vienna, the son of Leopold Ernst, a painter.  In 1869, at age 15, he joined the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and five years later went to Rome to study Italian landscape and classical figure painting.  In 1876, he moved to Paris and began sixty years of exhibiting his paintings at the Salon des Artistes Francais.  In 1877, he had his first exhibit at the Hall of French Artists.  At that time, he also began the life-long friendship he had with Ludwig Deutsch, and he eventually became a French citizen.

The next several decades beginning with the 1880s were quite productive for Ernst.  Having begun working in the Orientalist manner in 1885, between that year and 1896, he completed four major paintings: The Messanger, (1885) Prayer in the Mosque (1888), Arab Smoking a Waterpipe on a Sofa (1894) and Return from the Tiger Hunt (1896).  He also won a bronze medal in the Exposition Universelle in 1889, and in 1890, traveled to Turkey and Egypt.

In 1900, he became a resident of Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, and lived a quiet and somewhat reclusive life away from Paris.  Living in a home he decorated in Ottoman style, he continued to be productive, completing at least 20 large-scale Orientalist-theme paintings.  In fact, he was so committed to his subject matter that he wore a "tarboosh", the tasseled cap well known to the people he depicted.

Rudolf Ernst died in 1932 at this home in Fontenay-aux-Roses.


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