At the tender age of 10, the young Frantz displayed an incredible potential for painting: his instinct for colour and their importance in capturing emotion and the human experience was evident. In 1877, during an exhibition in Ghent, the young Charlet presented an exceptional still life which had critics soon throwing around the word prodigy.

Portaëls, the director of the School of Fine Arts in Brussels, nurtured Frantz Charlet's talent during these early year. After two years of close mentoring, Portaëls suggested Charlet went to Paris in order to develop his talent with the great masters of painting. It was there that Jules Lefebvre, Carolus Duran and later Jean-Léon Gérôme all guided and inspired Charlet.

Somehow, in Paris, Charlet realised his calling was Asia and Africa, he wanted to capture these exotics lands and its people.

His voyage began in southern Spain, where he studied the light and architectural forms of the country. Then it was on to Morocco, where he joined his friend Theodore Van Rysselberghe near Tangier in Ras el Ma, the capital of the Rif. Charlet stayed there for eight months during 1883.

During his time in Morocco, Charlet spent a lot of time with the Rifians, Baerber ethnic group in northern Morocco who  mainly live the mountains and plains of the central and eastern part of the mountain range of the Rif, along the Mediterranean coast. The Rifians would serve as models for his works on Morocco.

Back in France, Charlet and Van Rysselberghe travelled to Nice with around thirty paintings that caught the eye an art collector called Lambert. Amazed by the exceptional quality of the works, Lambert bought a dozen paintings. With money in his pocket, Charlet returned to Brussels with his family.

In Brussels, he remained a prominent part of the art world. In 1883 he organised an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where he presented a dozen oriental paintings. His remarkable works enthralled both critics and the public.

Despite his successes in Europe, Charlet longed for the blue skies of Morocco. In December of 1883, accompanied by his faithful friend Van Rysselberghe, he returned to Morocco. They bought a small house in Ras al Ma, right next to a workshop of spinners, where for two years, Charlet essentially devoted himself to painting characters from their daily lives. His servants and neighbours served as his models. The workshop of spinners influenced a large-scale work that Charlet exhibited in 1885 in Brussels in an exhibition dedicated to his works focusing on Morocco.

Une partie de dama, Oil on panel, signed and dated 1891 bottom left, 56 x 76 cm Une partie de dama, Oil on panel, signed and dated 1891 bottom left, 56 x 76 cm

This magnificent painting by Frantz Charlet was made during his second stay in Morocco. The seven children in the painting are playing a game entitled The Dama, inspired by the Spanish drafts. The traditional hairstyle of the children of the Rif is perfectly captured. The shaved skull with a strand of hair in the centre of the skull, is a tradition that dates from ancient Egypt. This ancient style for young boys aims to fight against evil and the evil eye. The young boys sit on the floor on a traditional carpet or kilim, a kind of wool carpet, hand-woven and with motifs specific to the region. In northern Morocco, the Berber carpet is often decorated with lozenges, triangles and fringes, such as that which is depicted in this painting. In this work, Frantz Charlet captures his daily life in Morocco.

In 1890, Charlet settled permanently in Brussels and devoted himself to painting the landscapes and marines of his country. His works which adopted lighter colours in order to capture the sea was, in no doubt, a precursor for the French Impressionist painters.

An active member of the Belgian artistic community, Charlet founded the society of the XX in 1882 with James Ensor and Van Rysselberghe, and in 1903 he was made a member of the National Society of Fine Arts. Finally, in 1906 he was a founding member, along with Gaston La Touche, of the International Society of Water Paintings.

Jacques Majorelle, Market in Marrakech, Oil on canvas signed and situed Marrakech lower right, 28.74 x 23.62 inch Jacques Majorelle, Market in Marrakech, Oil on canvas signed and situed Marrakech lower right, 28.74 x 23.62 inch

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 10.53.50 Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928) Fontaine devant la mosquée, Algérie. Oil on canvas signed and dated 1882 lower left 86 x 135 cm

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 10.53.40 Alfred De Dreux (1810-1860) Groom Soudanais sur son étalon blanc. Oil on canvas signed lower right 46 x 33 cm

Une partie de dama as well as these works by other Orientalists are currently in the collection of Gallery Ary Jan. Gallery Ary Jan specialises in French and European painting from the end of the 19th and the beginning of 20th centuries, particularly the Orientalist school and the Belle Epoque. From 21st-29th January, Gallery Ary Jan will be exhibited another collection of paintings at the BRAFA Art Fair. For more information, see here.

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