Schreyer, Adolf (German, 1828-1899)

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Adolf Schreyer (1828-1899) was a renowned German portrait and landscape painter, who remains especially esteemed as a painter of horses, peasant life and battle scenes.

Schreyer first began his artistic studies in Frankfurt, later continuing his studies in Stuttgart and Munich. In 1856, Schreyer first went to Egypt and Syria and in 1861 he travelled to Algeria. The painter became entranced by the East, where he frequently travelled and painted voraciously. It was in Algeria that Schreyer became particularly enthralled by Eastern culture, immersing himself in the local lifestyle, learning several Arab dialects and riding with Bedouin horsemen. The result was Schreyer’s production of exceptional works depicting nomadic tribesmen and horses, ensuring Schreyer’s position as one of the most successful Orientalist painters of his generation.

During the course of Schreyer's thirty-year long career, his violent, even frenzied depictions of Algerian horsemen at battle eventually gave way to more calculated compositions, in which elaborately dressed Arab figures ride through rough terrain, either singly or in groups. Schreyer often accorded the landscapes in these images an exaggerated role, infusing them with the dominant colours of North Africa painted in a rich and vibrant palette.  

Schreyer exhibited his pictures of Eastern European peasants and soldiers alongside countless variations on the theme of the Arab horseman at the Paris Salon and across Europe. His efforts were rewarded with medals in 1864, 1865, 1867, and 1876. Schreyer’s work soon found favour with an international clientele, including members of the German aristocracy and the wealthy American families.

Schreyer's Algerian subjects remain highly prized today, retaining their international appeal and still remarkable for their outstanding equine draughtsmanship and observational skill.