Algerian Muhammad Racim (1896 – 1975) is considered a true innovator of miniature art from his painting workshop in Algiers. A renovation that coincided with the creation of the interesting Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers, where there was an interesting collection of Western art, given that at that time that North African country was a colony of France.
Racim's History of Islam
He knew how to fuse Eastern and Western references in his miniatures, introducing pictorial concepts such as perspective. And when it comes to religious art, he makes a novelty that breaks certain norms. He introduces the human figure. For centuries Muslim art had been based on the concept of ornament, working from geometric, floral or animal motifs.
Introducing the human figure was something almost forbidden, since it meant trying to compare oneself with God, by pretending to create nature. Racim already mastered the representation of human figures, since he had illustrated the book of the Thousand and One Nights. But he had not dared to introduce it in religious scenes.
However when he painted thisHistory of Islam, he told the story of that religion practically from the Hegira to the 20th century, and it was inconceivable to do it without painting to people
The illustrated story is read, like Arabic, from right to left. Sowhich in the upper right corner begins with the image of the Revelation of the Koran to Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel. From there he paints the entire history of Islam passing through the most charismatic scenes and places, such as the Ka'aba of Mecca, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia transformed into a mosque inIstanbul during the Ottoman period or the Taj Mahal of India.
And in the same way, historical figures appear like Mehmed II founder of the Ottoman Empire, or Barbarossa protecting the city of Algiers with his arm the White.
In short, this is an exquisite work in form and content. A most delicate illustrated miniature, which renewed Algerian art. And he does so based on tradition, since before this Racim had traveled to Syria or Egypt to train with the best Arab illustrators. But in addition, the French painter and orientalist Etienne Dinet crossed his path, which was to represent an important change in his way of seeing art. And although he never stopped studying Persian miniatures or ornamental calligraphy, without a doubt his introduction of the narrative and the detail in his figures supposes the great renewal of figuration in Islamic themes.