The Arab sheep market, Tangier
Hilda Rix Nicholas
01 Sep 1884 - 03 Aug 1961
The Ballarat-born painter Hilda Rix Nicholas left Australia for France in 1907 where she lived and worked until 1918. During this time, she became one the most celebrated Australian expatriate artists in Paris. Rix Nicholas worked between her studio in Paris and the artist colonies at Étaples in Brittany, as well as further afield with trips to Spain and Morocco. Her 1912 solo exhibition in Paris launched her considerable reputation as a painter and she had works acquired by the French Government during this time.
In 1912 and 1914 Rix Nicholas made trips to Tangier in Morocco. The North African city inspired modern experimentation in her work and became an important site for her development as a painter. Tangier drew in a host of painters, both avant-garde and traditional, seeking new visual stimulus for their art. During Rix Nicholas’ 1912 expedition she had contact with the Paris-based American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner, and the modern master Henri Matisse.
Despite the influx of European artists, Rix Nicholas sought her own experiences of the city. She painted views from her hotel room; the expanse of block buildings of the ‘white city’ against brilliant blue Mediterranean sea. Rix Nicholas spent most of her time painting outdoors in the kasbah and Grand Soko or main marketplaces, soaking in the energy and activity of these surrounds. Responding to the colours, forms and distinct light of the city, Rix Nicholas created one of her most vibrant series of paintings that are marked by the post-impressionist influence of bolder palette and more simplified forms.
Rix Nicholas first exhibited her Moroccan works in France in 1912 and 1913 to resounding critical acclaim. When she returned to Tangier in 1914, she did so with this success behind her, and greater confidence in her artistic vision.
One of the outstanding works from her 1914 trip, Arab sheep market was one of the largest canvases Rix Nicholas painted in Tangier. She scaled up her ambitions creating a vital impression of the marketplace with a glowing palette. In a letter to her mother, Rix Nicholas noted that this painting was “full of light” and it is the luminosity and shimmering colour, and the impression of heat that feature as absorbing elements in this work. Rix Nicholas disregarded detail to focus on the overall rounded rhythmic forms of figures, the patterns of colours and the influx of heat and light.
Light features as a radiating force in Rix Nicholas’ Tangier paintings, and the glowing white atmosphere of the city, distinct from her painting experiences of Europe, heralded an enduring focus on the impact of light of her subjects that she would further explore in her works in Australia.
oil on canvas on board
47.5 x 57.5 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.l. oil, 'EHRix'. Not dated.
Australian Collection Benefactors' Fund and Edward Hamilton Stinson Fund 2020
Not on display
© Estate of Hilda Rix Nicholas