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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

Northern Africa
Tunisia

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Art contemporain tunisien: 3 au 23 octobre 1986, Theatre du Rond-Pointe. Paris: Association française d'action artistique, 1986. 80pp. illus. (color). Text in Arabic and French. [not in AFA Library]. OCLC 20321945.

Twentieth-century Tunisian painters and graphic artists, representing successive generations, have searched for an artistic identity, collectively and inidividually. The thirty-one artists in this 1986 exhibition are a cross section of the creativity and artistic solutions that have emerged from this quest. The "École de Tunis" movement, which flowering in the middle decades of this century, stimulated a number of artists, but there are others who have worked independently outside of schools or movements. Younger generations of artists rejected older ideas or simply moved beyond earlier concerns to arrive at new solutions. The works illustrated in this catalog -- one of each artist -- reveal this diversity of expression.


Ben Cheikh, Naceur. Peindre à Tunis: pratique artistique maghrébine et histoire. Paris: Harmattan, 2006. 252pp. bibliog. (pp. 247-252). ND1091.B46 2006 AFA. OCLC 70053947.

This study of 20th-century Tunisian painters is more sociological and philosophical than art historical. There are no illustrations of paintings. It addresses artists’ philosophical and ideological approaches to painting, their relationship to artisanal production, and their attitudes toward the role of art in society. The influences of Orientalist painters who worked in Tunisia are also weighed and measured. The state of the art market and of art criticism in Tunisia are found to have weaknesses

On a more theoretical plane, Cheikh considers the intersection of traditional Islamic aesthetics and modern Tunisian painting. A painter, professor and journalist himself, Cheikh originally prepared this text as a thesis in the 1970s at the Sorbonne

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Bouzid, Dorra. École de Tunis. Tunis: Alif, les éditions de la Méditerranée, 1995. 217pp. illus. (pt. color), bibl. refs. ND1091.B68 1995 AFA. OCLC 37814834.

The École de Tunis represents a golden age of Tunisian painting, which flourished from the 1940s to the 1970s. This school of painting is predominantly figurative work, characterized by brightly colored and saturated palettes. The paintings offer a window on Tunisian life, as they typically portray ceremonies, costumes, musicians, merchants, artisans, clerics, individuals or groups of people. The thematic emphasis on Tunisian culture was in keeping with a nationalistic pride and a spirit of cultural récuperation. But these artists were not insular nor were they immune to artistic influences from European Modernism. Several have spent extended sojourns in Paris. The history of the École de Tunis is revealed in Dorra Bouzid's essay, which incorporates excerpts of interviews with the artists. In the main catalog, each artist is represented with several paintings, all well reproduced. Abdelatif El Djazaïri provides commentary on the paintings.

The painters who came to be part of the École de Tunis who are included in this catalog are: Yahia Turki, Pierre Boucherle, Ammar Farhat, Moses Levy, Jellal Ben Abdallah, Jules Lellouche, Zoubeir Turki, Ali Bellagha, Hédi Turki, Edgard Naccache, Abdelaziz Gorgi, Brahim Dahak, Safia Farhat (the only woman), Hassen Soufy, Nello Levy (son of Moses Levy), and Fethi Ben Zakour.



Laouti, Ali. L’aventure de l’art modern en Tunisie. Tunis: Simpact éditions, 1997. 262pp. illus. (chiefly color), bibliog. (pp. 260-262). N7391.L89 1997 AFA. OCLC 299142644.

Painting predominates contemporary Tunisian art, as is reflected in this survey of 20th century Tunisian art. The last chapter “Autres expressions” quickly passes over sculpture, ceramics, prints, and tapestries. The history of modern painting in Tunisia is strongly influenced by Islamic traditions and equally by colonial (largely French) painting and Orientalism. Laouti unfolds the story chronologically with the pioneers, the Ecole de Tunis, the generation of “rupture” (i.e., 1960s-1970s); the post-Modern period and the 1980s and 1990s. Key artists for each of these period are highlighted. The book is sumptuously illustrated.