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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Edwin Lord Weeks: Man Leading a Camel

Man Leading a Camel
(source: http://hoocher.com/Edwin_Lord_Weeks/Edwin_Lord_Weeks.htm)
no copyright infringement intended

It was 1877. Edwin Lord Weeks commenced to work on the painting whose image is above. It was destined for the 1878 Salon - his first Salon exhibit. He then got ready to spend a long winter in Morocco (the details of which were published in Scribner's Magazine in 1901). Wanting to avoid the northern ports frequented by tourists, he planned to visit Rabat on the Atlantic coast and so crossed the Straits of Gibraltar accompanied by his wife, landing at Tangiers, where his friend Robert Gavin was living. He joined them on their journey. It was five days over land and across the flooded rivers (a coaster could have made the journey in a day!) and, not expecting to find a hotel in Rabat, they took with them sufficient supplies for a three month stay. However, reaching Rabat, they found the region to be stricken with famine. Not deterred and, through the ingenuity of their servants from Tangiers and their foreign currency, they embarked upon the tactic of distributing bread to the needy, in return for which they would pose to be sketched and painted - something they might otherwise have been unwilling to do. They decided to return to Paris in February, intending to arrive in time for the Salon. However a sand barrier prevented them boarding the coastal steamer so they planned to travel overland by camel. But the day of their intended departure both Weeks and his wife succumbed to typhoid fever and Gavin, who was apparently immunized, nursed them until the danger was over. It was not before spring that they boarded a ship carrying the British flag, and even then they were subjected to a violent storm on their return journey. In spite of the discomfort and dangers of his visit to Rabat, Weeks returned to Morocco less than a year later. He wanted to visit the legendary towns of the interior and adverse circumstances had hindered his previous plan of traveling from Tangiers to Fez overland. This time he followed the coast to Mogador where he obtained the governor's permission to enter the interior of the country escorted by an armed guard as far as Marrakesh. There he obtained permission from the local potentate to draw in the streets. He was fascinated by the contrasts between the flourishing commercialism of the bazaars and the ancient monuments in a state of abandon (this calls in my mind a movie of Bertolucci from 1990, The Sheltering Sky, where John Malkovich and Debra Winger were playing a couple of American artists traveling aimlessly through Morocco in search for new experiences which would give sense to their relationship - well, any association between the travel of Weeks and the moviestops here).

(Edwin Lord Weeks) )



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