Henri PONTOY (1888 – 1968)

An Orientalist painting by Henri Pontoy representing a market scene in Essaouira, Morocco, circa 1930. A generous and sculpted touch, warm and bright colors illuminate the scene

Oil on canvas
Signed lower right
Dimensions: 33 x 41 cm
With frame: 49 x 57 cm
Price: 4800 €

Essaouira, historical and romantic city

Henri Pontoy set down his easel in Essaouira in one of the city’s markets, the arcades are low and the interior courtyard rectangular; one recognizes the architecture of the historic walled city dating from the late 18th century. He uses the arches for an unusual framing.

A fresh and luminous palette and a sculpted and unctuous material

Henri Pontoy, as usual, uses warm and bright colors. Pinks, purples, greens and blues brighten the scene.
He plays with light and shadow and sculpts his creamy material with skill.


Henri Pontoy is an orientalist painter born in Reims. He enters the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, in the studio of Luc-Olivier Merson. Pontoy attended the Barbizon School illustrated by renowned painters like Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet. Outdoor painting, as conceived by the landscape painters of the Barbizon School, would then condition his approach.
He exhibited his paintings at the Salon de la Société nationale des Beaux-Arts, at the Salon d’Automne, at the Salon des Indépendants and at the Salon des artistes orientalistes algériens.
In 1926, he received a travel grant from the Colonial Society of French Artists, which allowed him to travel to North Africa, particularly to Tunisia where he became a member of the Tunisian Salon. That same year, he travels to Morocco, which captivates him. He lived for several years around 1930 in Ouarzazate where he met the painter Jacques Majorelle. He became a professor of arts and letters at the Moulay Idriss high school in Fez for 14 years, while regularly exhibiting at the Derche gallery in Casablanca.
In 1947, Jacques Majorelle asked Henry Pontoy to accompany him to Guinea. Together, they travel through the heavily forested region of Fouta-Djalon. “Majorelle painted nudes and I painted landscapes.”
He was awarded the Cameroon Prize in 1951. He was the 1933 winner of the grand prize of the city of Algiers.
Henry Pontoy favors plein air painting in a realistic approach. Her fresh, airy, warmly colored palette in both oils and watercolors has always been a great success.
He is one of the last French representatives of orientalism which reached its peak between the two world wars.
Henry Pontoy lived in Morocco from 1927 to 1965, when he left that country to settle in Aix-en-Provence, where he died in 1968.


– Oran, January 1925
– Algiers and Tunis,: 1926
– Salon d’automne in Algiers, 1926
– Algiers, 1933, Salon of Algerian Orientalist Artists
– Algiers, December 1938, Salon of the Artistic Union of North Africa
– Algiers, January 1947, exhibition of art mirrors


– Benezit dictionary
– Alfred Rousse, 28th exhibition of Algerian Orientalist artists, 1927.
– Stéphane Richemond, Les Salons des artistes coloniaux, Éditions de l’Amateur, 2003
– Gérald Schurr and Pierre Cabanne, Dictionnaire des petits maîtres de la peinture, Éditions de l’Amateur, 2003.
– Élisabeth Cazenave, Les artistes de l’Algérie, dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs 1830-1962, Éditions Bernard Giovanangeli, 2001.