Mariano José Maria Bernardo Fortuny y Carbo - inv. 34

Mariano José Maria Bernardo Fortuny y Carbo (1838-1874)

The Opium Smoker
watercolour on paper  
22,7 x 44,5 cm
signature and date
"Fortuny Tangeri/ 67"
1897 acquisition 
Inv. 34

Apart from slight crinkling of the paper support, the watercolour is in excellent condition.
The work shows a reclining man smoking a pipe of opium, with another figure crouching in the background. They are both on a sort of bench; a pair of slippers on the ground near it.
The scene is lit by daylight that enters the room from the left; an unlit lamp hangs on the right. The monochrome effect conferred by tones of grey and brown is interrupted by splashes of colour: the blue dress of the person on the right, the red brushstrokes of the smoker’s waistcoat and the yellow of the material he is lying against. The work is sketch-like in style, though the artist has paused on certain details like the pipe and the metal object in the foreground.

This watercolour is one of many sketches that Mariano Fortuny made during his trips to Morocco, where he went to prepare a painting of the Spanish-Moroccan battle of Tetuan. These sketches, also depicting landscapes and scenes of daily life, were then worked up into paintings and engravings once he returned to Europe.

Born in Reus in Catalonia and academy trained, Mariano Fortuny was aware of the main European art trends. He developed his own style of Orientalism following his north African experiences, which gave him inspiration for new subjects and considerably lightened his palette. His interest in African objects of daily use led him to reproduce them in great detail and to buy them in bulk so that he could copy them later in his studio. Much appreciated by European collectors, his work was imitated when he was still alive by other artists imitating his style and subject-matter.