Ludwig Deutsch was born in Vienna, in 1855 and became famous for his Orientalist paintings. Not much is known about his personal life, but he came from a Jewish family, and his father worked for the Austrian court.
Deutsch began his formal training in 1872 at the prestigious Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, where he continued for about three years under the Neo-Classical painter, Anselm Feuerbach. He also studied under Leopold Muller, after failed attempts to join his studio. Some art historians debate whether Deutsch was Jean-Paul Laurens’ student as well. During this period, Deutsch mainly produced portrayals of historical subjects.
In 1878, the artist moved to the center for art in Europe, Paris. There he was deeply influenced by his fellow artists and became involved with the Orientalist style. Deutsch befriended Orientalists like Rudolf Ernst and Arthur Von Ferraris. By the beginning of the 1880s, he began exhibiting his work in Paris and began his studio there as well. He settled at Rue Le Peletier, near the famous Opera Le Peletier. He was well-received, and his paintings were a great success among the Parisians.
In 1881, the Austrian painter concluded his first Orientalist artworks, about four years before his first documented visit to the Middle East. The artist traveled to Egypt for the first time in 1885 and returned at least twice, in 1890 and 1898. Like his Orientalist colleagues, Deutsch was profoundly inspired by the culture of North Africa, which translates into beautifully detailed paintings with gorgeous color schemes.
He often focused on the people and clothing, as seen in The Palace Guard. His passion ran so deep for this culture that Deutsch collected many objects acquired during his travels, which he used as references for his art, including clothing, fabrics, furniture, ornamented tiles, among others. The painter featured these elements with breathtaking pigments, of gold, blue, red, and green, which contrast with the desert colors of the environment.
Deutsch’s production gained volume as he developed a technique in which he worked on multiple paintings at once, using similar settings and changing the subjects of each work. The artist found the themes he was most interested in and focused on them, mostly portraying everyday people in their activities, like street vendors, musicians, religious devouts, to name a few. These themes are beautifully reproduced in paintings like The Chess Game, At Prayer, and A Gathering Around the Morning News, Cairo. He aimed for accuracy, and like many other artists of the time, like Jean-Léon Gérôme and Rudolf Ernst, he worked with photographic reference, especially of the locations and architecture from his travels to the Orient.
Ludwig Deutsch passed away around the age of 80, in 1935 in Paris, France. He left a legacy as an Orientalist, bringing exotic cultures to the heart of European art in colorful and breathtaking oil paintings.