Characterized by Ackerman as "The most beautifully composed and painted of Grme's landscapes" (Ackerman, p. 258), The First Kiss of the Sun was exhibited at the Salon of 1886, six years after Grme's last trip to Egypt. The artist first traveled to Egypt in 1856 and made subsequent excursions in 1862, 1868, 1869, 1871, 1874, and 1880. One of the artist's most accomplished landscapes, The First Kiss of the Sun shows the pyramids of Giza suffused in the golden morning light of the desert sun. This view is from the west, as seen from the rising sun illuminating the summit of each pyramid. The ethereal appearance of the distant pyramids contrasts dramatically with the clearly detailed foreground. Moreover, the haze created by the sand and sunlight lends the picture an air of otherworldliness. The head of the Sphinx is just visible in the middle background.
Robert Isaacson enjoyed relating that the strip of clear blue along the top of the picture represents Grme's memory of a natural phenomenon. Driving to the Cairo airport at dawn, Isaacson saw how the sun struck the particles of sand in the air, forming a distinct horizontal division in the sky.
Throughout his lifetime of travel, Grme made frequent drawings, which provided an extensive repetoire of stock images for the paintings he executed in his Paris studio. The critic Thophile Gautier, an early champion of Grme's work, visited the artist in Paris shortly after he had returned from his first Egyptian trip. Gautier described how the artist made on-site pencil sketches, which would have inspired his work, loaded with abundant visual information. "We should never finish were we to describe the infinite number of details gathered together on these loose sheets: great undulations of ground; masses of doum-palms; saqqhyehs [water wheels] whose wheel lifts and tells the little rosary of pots; cafis; okkels; camping grounds, corner of pyramids..." (G. Ackerman, op. cit.,, London, 1986, p. 45). An oil study of the pyramids and a few of the palms in The First Kiss of The Sun sold at Sotheby's Parke-Bernet, New Yorkm in 1978.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming revised edition of the catalogue raisonn on Grme being prepared by Gerald Ackerman.