Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

Arts populaires
  • Ammar Farhat
    1911–1987
    born: Béja, Tunisia ; died: Tunis, Tunisia
  • Arts populaires, 1999
  • Tribute to Great Painters in Tunisia
  • Where object was made: Tunisia
  • postage stamp
  • Object Height/Width: 1 1/2 x 2 in
  • On loan from Dr. Jessica Gerschultz
  • On view: Marshall Balcony, 404, S1
  • EL2017.123
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text
Exhibitions

Exhibition Label:
"Race, Gender, and the "Decorative" in 20th-Century African Art: Reimagining Boundaries", 11-Nov-2017
“The experience of everyday life constitutes a constant contribution to the artist’s experience.”
—Safia Farhat, La Presse, January 16, 1970
Artists across Africa and the African Diaspora sought to reconcile modernist binaries such as art/craft, high/low, and modern/traditional in various media. Two-dimensional graphic arts such as postcards, illustrations for literary journals, and postage stamps enabled artists to widely circulate such imagery. The artist group École de Tunis (Tunis School) formed in 1948 to forge a Tunisian artistic modernism collective. Its members included Jellal Ben Abdallah, whose early drawings illustrated the feminist publication Leïla in the 1930s; Ali Bellagha, who opened a gallery to elevate Tunisian arts; and Safia Farhat, the first Tunisian director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis and professor of tapestry and decorative arts. The stamps and postcard on display reveal the group’s engagement with artistic heritage such as embroidered wedding costumes, spinning wool, pottery, woven fans and hats, and musical instruments. The Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas also shaped pan-African philosophies of uplifting African and African-American art and society. Like artists of the École de Tunis, Douglas evoked African design elements to create murals and graphics. His 1926 cover illustration for the magazine Opportunity accompanied poems

Mobile App Exhibition Label:
"Race, Gender, and the "Decorative" in 20th-Century African Art: Reimagining Boundaries", 11-Nov-2017
The École de Tunis, an elite group of painters, formed in the mid-1900s and was headed by Pierre Boucherle. While many members of this group taught a new generation of Tunisian artists at the École des Beaux Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Tunis, Boucherle used his political office to award commissions for murals and other monumental arts to fellow members and emerging artists. The breadth of their work is diverse in style, but thematically the artists were concerned with creating a new body of modern art linked to the Tunisian experience.

Artists of the École de Tunis often created scenes of artisans at work as they questioned French colonial representations of Tunisian art as “craft.” Scenes of artistic production not only stimulated the discourse on the relation between Tunisian “craft” and modernism, but also promoted tourism to Tunis. The subjects of these stamps vary from the white and cerulean cityscape of Sidi Bou Saïd (the seaside suburb favored by modernists such as Boucherle and Jellal Ben Abdallah), conversing musicians, a bride awash in the vivid colors of her traditional wedding garment, a date merchant with a jasmine bud tucked behind his ear, and a fan vendor. Other examples portray women artisans in the fields of ceramics and spinning.

While these stamps served to illustrate the rich cultural heritage of the region, the artists documented the gendered craft roles present within Tunisian society. Ammar Farhat's painting La Fileuse (The Spinner) depicts a Tunisian woman at work spinning thread for production into trade goods. A similar spindle from Morocco is displayed in the gallery in a nearby case. Historically, Tunisian women worked in the home, often interacting with people through kinship or marriage, and the practice of weaving and other ancillary handiwork was seen as an extension of the female experience. These fiber skills were generally passed down from mother to daughter. This facet of female Tunisian life, once crucial to the traditional modes of household production, was integrated into the formal economy and the growing tourism industry.

Written by Sergio Toledo.

“The experience of everyday life constitutes a constant contribution to the artist’s experience.”
—Safia Farhat, La Presse, January 16, 1970
Artists across Africa and the African Diaspora sought to reconcile modernist binaries such as art/craft, high/low, and modern/traditional in various media. Two-dimensional graphic arts such as postcards, illustrations for literary journals, and postage stamps enabled artists to widely circulate such imagery. The artist group École de Tunis (Tunis School) formed in 1948 to forge a Tunisian artistic modernism collective. Its members included Jellal Ben Abdallah, whose early drawings illustrated the feminist publication Leïla in the 1930s; Ali Bellagha, who opened a gallery to elevate Tunisian arts; and Safia Farhat, the first Tunisian director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis and professor of tapestry and decorative arts. The stamps and postcard on display reveal the group’s engagement with artistic heritage such as embroidered wedding costumes, spinning wool, pottery, woven fans and hats, and musical instruments. The Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas also shaped pan-African philosophies of uplifting African and African-American art and society. Like artists of the École de Tunis, Douglas evoked African design elements to create murals and graphics. His 1926 cover illustration for the magazine Opportunity accompanied poems