Considered one of the first Algerian painters, Mohammed Racim was born into a family of artisans of Turkish origin who lived and worked in the Casbah in Algiers. Racim's father had a woodcarving and copper business, while his paternal uncle engraved tombstones. His older brother, Omar Racim, was a calligrapher who devoted much of his life to religion and politics, and who later taught illumination to Algerian students in colonial Algeria.
Mohammed Racim was raised to join his family's business. In 1910, Racim completed his studies at a French colonial school that trained Algerians for the skilled trades. Racim became a draftsman in the Cabinet de Dessin (Drafting Office) in the Service of Indigenous Arts after Prosper Ricard, then the inspector of artistic and industrial education in Algiers, noticed Racim's exceptional work. As the artist explained, "From the age of fourteen, I spent part of my days making copies and composing carpets, Arab embroideries, ornaments on copper, and sculpted wood destined to furnish models for schools, the workshops of Algeria" (quoted in Benjamin).
It was at the Cabinet de Dessin that Racim discovered Persian miniatures, which would form the basis of his artistic production throughout his career. During Racim's early attempts at painting, Racim's uncle provided technical advice while French Orientalist and Muslim convert Nasreddine Dinet (born Etienne Dinet, 1861 - 1929) offered encouragement and Racim's first commission: fifteen full-page color illustrations with Qur'anic inscriptions for the publication
Vie de Mohammed, Prophete d'Allah (1918), which Dinet co-wrote with Sliman ben Ibrahim. Racim continued to produce these traditional illuminations until the 1940s.
Racim exhibited at the Salon of the Society of Algerian and Orientalist Artists in 1923. That same year, he also won a grant from the municipality of Algiers and a medal from the Society of French Orientalist Painters in Paris. He subsequently spent eight years in Paris (1924 - 1932) where he completed page decorations for Henri Piazza's twelve-volume edition of
One Thousand and One Nights (1926-1932). In 1933, he was the first Algerian to win the Grand Prix Artistique de l'Algérie and was named professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Algiers, where he established a school of miniaturists. He ceased painting miniatures in 1955 due to vision problems. After Algeria gained its independence in 1962, Racim was hired as a counselor to the Minister of Culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the world, in Paris, Cairo, Rome, Bucharest, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Tunis, and Algiers. Much of the artist's personal collection is now preserved at the Museum of Fine Arts in Algiers.
In his paintings, Racim blends traditional Persian and Mughal miniature painting and techniques, rarely practiced in the Maghreb, with Western perspective to depict pre-colonial Algeria. Frequent themes include historical events, religious festivities, and moments of everyday life set in the period before Algeria's colonization by the French in 1830. Racim's style is characterized by this synthesis of traditional miniature painting with Western ways of seeing, his vivid use of color, and his preference for Persian
mise en page, or page design.
Well-versed in the different styles and history of miniature painting, Racim often labeled his paintings "Persian style" or "Egyptian style," depending on the style he employed. Later in his career, Racim reflected on his work, saying that he wanted to fix the memory of an Arab culture that French colonization was rapidly transforming. Art historian Roger Benjamin argues that Racim purposely employed imperfect and subtly distorted perspective in order to assert his Maghrebi identity and to privilege the miniature tradition over European models. At the same time, his paintings, as Benjamin notes, evidence his careful understanding of local gestures and customs and "rewrite the degrading protocols of Orientalist painting."
Racim is the rare artist who was embraced by French colonizers as well as Algerian nationalists, and by the pan-Arab Institut du Monde Arabe, which organized a posthumous retrospective of the artist's work in 1992.
|Summary, Part 1, Mathaf Collection, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar|
|2010||Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar|
|1992|| Solo exhibition,
Mohammed Racim: Miniaturiste algérien, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France|
Hommage à Mohammed Racim, Musée National des Beaux-Arts, Algiers, Algeria|
Hommage à Mohammed Racim, Exposition Miniatures et Enluminures, Galerie de l'UNAP, Algiers, Algeria|
L'Orient et l'Algérie dans l'Art Français aux XIX et XX siècles, Musée des beaux-arts de Liège, Liège, Belgium|
Exposition Artistique de l'Afrique Français, Monte Carlo, Monaco |
Algerian Miniatures, Cercle France-Musulman, Algiers, Algeria|
|Group exhibition, Salon de Société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, Algeria|
12e Exposition Artistique de l'Afrique français, Tunis, Tunisia|
11e Exposition Artistique de l'Afrique français, Algiers, Algeria|
Miniatures Algériennes de Mohamed Racim, Galerie Chaix, Algiers, Algeria|
Miniatures et Gouaches du Vieil Alger, Galerie Ecalle, Paris, France|
|1935||Group exhibition, Salon de société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, Algeria|
|____||Group exhibition, Seconde Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Coloniale, Naples, Italy|
Miniatures de Mohammed Racim, Galerie du Minaret, Algiers, Algeria|
|Group exhibition, Salon de l’Union Artistique de l’Afrique du nord, Algiers, Algeria|
5e exposition artistique de l'Afrique français, Salle des Fêtes de l'Empire, Fez, Morocco|
|____||Group exhibition, 28e exposition,
Les peintres orientalistes français, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, France|
French Artists Inspired by Africa, Stelian Museum, Budapest, Hungary|
Miniatures d'Enluminures de Mohammed Racim, Galerie Ecalle, Paris, France|
|1930||Group exhibition, Salon de Société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, Algeria|
Exposition Coloniale Internationale, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France|
|1926||Group exhibition, Salon de l’Union Artistique de l’Afrique du Nord, Algiers, Algeria|
|1923||Group exhibition, Salon de Société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, Algeria|
|1922||Group exhibition, Salon de société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, Algeria|
|1918||Group exhibition, Salon de Société des Artistes Algériens et Orientalistes, Algiers, Algeria|
Awards and Honors
1933 Grand Prix Artistique de l’Algérie
Islamic miniatures, miniatures, painting, Algeria, colonialism, postcolonialism.
Mohammed Racim, Miniaturiste algérien. Paris: Musée de l'Institut du monde arabe, 1992.
Artist file, Mohammed Racim. Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
Baghli, Si Ahmed.
Mohammed Racim, Miniaturiste algérien. 4th edition. Algiers: Société nationale d'édition et de diffusion, nd.
Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa, 1880-1930. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Benjamin, Roger. "Colonial Tutelage to Nationalist Affirmation: Mammeri and Racim, Painters of the Maghreb." In
Orientalism's Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography. Eds. Jill Beaulieu and Mary Roberts. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. 43-78.
Pouillon, François. "Painting Algerian Society: Exoticism, Modernism, Identity." Trans. Amy Jacobs-Colas. In
Remembering Africa. Ed. Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. 103-123.
Pouillon, François. "La peinture Monumentale en Algérie: un art pédagogique."
Cahiers d'Études Africaines 36 (1996): 183-213.
Vogl, Mary. "Algerian Painters as Pioneers of Modernism." In
A Companion to Modern African Art. Eds. Gitti Salami and Monica Blackmun Visona. Malden, MA and Oxford, England: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. 197-217.
Angéli, Louis-Eugène. "L'art de la Miniature et Mohammed Racim."
Algeria 39 (1954): 46-53.
Hommage à Mohammed Racim, maître de la miniature algérienne. Algiers: Musée National des Beaux-Arts, 1980.
Feuillets épars liées. Algiers: Sned, 1983.
Mohammed Racim, Miniaturiste Algérien. Algiers: Enal, 1990.
La vie musulmane d'hier vue par Mohammed Racim. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques, 1960.
M.O.I. "Mohammed Racim, chantre d'Al-Djazir."
Révolution africaine 106 (1965): 22-23.
Randau, Robert. "Un maître algérois de la miniature: Mohammed Racim."
L'Afrique du Nord Illustré 817 (January 1937): 2-3.
Siblot, Paul. "Mohammed Racim."
Parcours 4 (1985): 78-83.
Image d'un combat: Omar Racim (1883-1958). Algiers: École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, 1988.