This is a c. 1951 James Thiriar pictorial map of the Belgian Congo. Thiriar utilizes the era's fascination with Africa and the associated exoticism to help entice tourists in this wonderfully executed colorful map. Tribal Africans are illustrated throughout in their traditional consumes. This exoticism is reinforced by the large, arguably stereotypical, portraits of native Africans in the lower left corner. The map also emphasizes the Belgian Congo's biodiversity. Elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinoceros, ostrich, and baboons make an appearance. Illustrations of African art and ceremonial objects, including masks and statuettes, adorn the border and complete the exotic feel of this piece.
Tourism in the Belgian CongoIf tourism statistics are to be believed, then Thiriar's work must have found a modicum of success. 11,437 people visited the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi in 1952 and spent around 600 million francs.
Publication History and CensusThis map was drawn by James Thiriar with some decorative work, likely the border, done by Pierre Magraf. At least two editions of the present map were published. The present version was published c. 1951 by the Côte d'Or chocolate company, of which an example is part of the David Rumsey Map Collection. A second, likely earlier, edition was published by the Office of Tourism of Belgian Congo and Rwanda-Burundi. An example of this edition appeared at auction recently.
James Thiriar (1889 - 1965) was a Belgian illustrator, draughtsman, painter, and costume designer. Born in Ixelles, Belgium, Thiriar was a member of the Belgian Civil Guard, a group tasked with the maintenance of civil law and order, at the outbreak of World War I. Wounded while fighting with the Civil Guards against the German invasion, he joined the Belgian Army in London. His first job for the Belgian Army was with the Topographic Service creating detailed maps and sketches of the front line. Then, Thiriar was transferred to the artistic section, where he produced drawings of the everyday lives of soldiers, many of which were published in The Illustrated London News. He organized exhibitions of his drawings in La Panne and London in 1917 and, under the pseudonym Uilenspiegel, his work appeared in the Belgian French-language magazine L'Yser : Journal hebdomadaire du front belge. His work was also published in the bi-monthly French magazine La Guerre des Nations under the title La guerre sur l'Yser dessinée. He also illustrated Jacques Pirenne's 1917 book Les Vainqueurs de l'Yser. He published his own memoirs about the war, which he also illustrated, entitled Gloire et Misère au Front de Flandres 1914 - 1918. He opened his own studio in Brussels shortly after the war and worked as a costume designer for the Théàtre royal de la Monnaie and worked for several other theater companies. He also worked on set designs and created advertisements for the SNCF. Thiriar participated in the 1932 Belgian exploratory mission to Ruwenzori and painted several notable watercolors and gouaches of vegetation in Congo and Sudan. He provided 232 illustrations for Fernand Gendarme's the three-volume work Croquis Congolais in 1942. Learn More...
Very good. Exhibits light wear along original fold lines. Blank on verso.