Otto Pilny (Swiss painter) 1866 - 1936Evening Prayers, 1910oil on canvas47 1/2 x 66 1/4 in. (120.7 x 168.3 cm.)signed O. PILNY and dated 1910 (lower right)
Though little is known of Pilny's early artistic career, it may have been during a brief period of study in Vienna that he was encouraged to travel abroad. Ludwig Deutsch (1855-1935), Rudolf Ernst (1854-1932), and Carl Leopold Müller (1834-1892) had all made this city synonymous with Orientalist art, exhibiting their pictures of Middle Eastern life to great acclaim. Pilny's first trip to Egypt – the favorite destination of the Austro-Hungarian school – took place in 1889; a second journey followed three years later. The paintings that resulted record not merely the landscapes and people that Pilny encountered, but the magical effects of Eastern light and sun. In the present work, a group of Bedouin performs maghrib, the fourth of the five Islamic daily prayers. The postures they adopt illustrate each of those required to complete one raka, from qiyam (standing) to sajda (prostration). Independent in their actions, yet bonded by this act, the solemn dignity of the group conveys the depth of their religion. The remarkable palette that Pilny employs, characteristic in its liberal use of pink and golden paint, provides an ethereal glow. These colors and this light repeatedly drew Pilny to outdoor scenes of Egypt, and led him to this particular subject several times after 1900.
This catalogue note was written by Dr. Emily M. Weeks.
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