'If exile made of this immense artist a man deeply buried in the underground of being and metamorphosis, his kingdom, over which he reigns supreme, is limitless, impregnable! Maybe that is why he wears his genius lightly. Benanteur does not vociferate. He is the only Algerian painter who has a genuine and international universality instinct that he discovered his genius, his passion for spurting forth, as well as his innate feeling for lines and incisions' (Rachid Boudjedra, 'Exile and Kingdom' in C. Lemand ed., Benanteur - Graphic Works, Paris, 2005).
Abdallah Benanteur was born in Mostaganem, Algeria, in 1931. He was brought up in close contact with Algerian music and lute players, which seem to have echoed in his head all throughout his artistic career, as his paintings always have a rich lyrical tone to them. When he was an adolescent, Benanteur met the late Mohammed Khadda (1930-1991), a painter and writer, who became one of his very close friends. They both shared a passion for the poetic illuminations of Al-Hallaj, Ibn Arabi, Omar Khayyam and Saadi, as well as for the French painter Paul Cézanne's visual and constructive order, whose influence they discovered in books of reproductions. Although Benanteur attended classes at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière in Paris, having settled in the French capital in 1953, the most rewarding and fruitful learning was achieved through his multiple visits to the Musée du Louvre, where he admired the vast collection of Old Master Paintings. He later discovered many other major museums' treasures throughout his journeys to Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
In Le courroux of 1989, Benanteur seems to be paying homage to one of the great Masters of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538), and more particularly to one of Altdorfer's most famous masterpieces, The Battle of Issus, executed in 1529, which Benanteur would have most probably seen during one of his trips to Germany in Munich. Benanteur radically detached himself from any form of academism or school, whether it be abstract, figurative or post-modern, yet in Le courroux he achieves the similar dramatic effect dominating Altdorfer's battle scene. Through flecks of vibrant yellows, earthy browns, dark greens and bright blues, Benanteur's palette explodes into a firework of colours onto the canvas, which is nevertheless meticulously displayed in order to create a monumental composition. Using Impressionist-like techniques, from J.M.W. Turner's (1775-1851) spectacular moon- and sun-lit landscapes to Paul Cézanne's (1839-1906) more constructivist approach with his brushtrokes, Benanteur creates a turbulent yet quiet movement on his canvas similar to the organised chaos raging through Altdorfer's almost miniaturist painting. Marc Hérissé best described Benanteur's paintings, writing that, 'The palette is iridescent, diaphanous, airy, transparently vibrant, maintained through a very sure touch, masterly, poetic and virile. Flashes of light, be they sunny or stormy, take you beyond the painting's confines. One is reminded of Turner when faced with these shimmering lights. It is quite another world, but it holds the same magical quality'. (M. Hérissé in C. Lemand ed., Benanteur - Peintures, Paris, 2002).
Like many of his works, Benanteur's painting of Le courroux is neither figurative nor abstract, as it is rooted in some elements of nature, which the artist may have observed, felt or even heard. Yet he only uses fractions of mountains, landscapes, skies or seas which are engraved in his memory in order to create these stunning paintings which purposely dazzles the viewer and invites him to share the Algerian painter's nostalgia or any other remembered sensation. Devoid of any historical, folkloric, academic or symbolical reference, Benanteur's paintings are unique in their overwhelming sensual character and in the way this is communicated and experienced by the viewer.