In the 19th century, more and more artists traveled to the Middle East and North Africa. English painters went to India and Egypt, while French painters explored North Africa, especially Algeria and Morocco. According to Eric Underwood, “the conquest of Algeria during the reign of Louis-Philippe also aroused the interest of the French public and helped to increase the popularity of oriental characters.” (226). The East had a special appeal to artists of the Romantic era, particularly Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Theodore Chasseriau and Eugene Fromentin. Orientalism and exotica begins with Delacroix (1798-1863). His first Orientalist painting, The Women of Algiers (1834), is not only an enchanting masterpiece but also one of his most important works.
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Jean Léone Gérôme (1824-1904)
The Harem Pool. 1876.
The Hermitage - St. Petersburg.
During a stay in Bursa, I was taken by the architecture of the baths, and they certainly offered a chance to study nudes. It wasn’t just a question of going to see what was going on inside, and of replacing [some men by some women], I had to have a sketch of this interior; and since the temperature inside was rather high, I didn’t hesitate to sketch in the simple apparel of a beauty just aroused from her sleep—that is, in the buff. Sitting on my tripod, my paint box on my knees, my palette in my hand, I was a little grotesque, but you have to know how to adapt yourself as necessary. I had the idea of painting my portrait in this costume, but I dropped it, fearing that my image (dal vero) might get me too much attraction and launch me in a career as a Don Juan. (30)
Odalisque and Slave, 1839.
Some critics, however, reproached Ingres for the work, saying that, in order to extend the line of the back of the woman, he added an extra neck bone. In addition, some say he made the subject’s right hand so unnaturally extended that it appears that she is missing bones. The woman is shown with her back to the viewer, glancing over her right shoulder with a look of apparent indifference. Some of the details that surround her – the hookah and smoking incense – indicate a harem setting. The parting of the subject’s hair and the Italian headdress that she wears, though, imply that the woman is European, not Oriental. In this way, the painting can be seen as a symbol of the influence of Oriental exoticism on the people of Europe. Clothes, fabrics, ornaments and accessories always accompany the female portraits of Ingres. His skills are shown in his ability to combine the female form with fabrics, furs and feathers. If one looks closer at Grand Odalisque, one notices how, on the naked hip of the woman, a fan of pheasant’s feathers flows downward covering the back of her thigh. The viewer can almost feels its airy softness, and it adds to the picture a bit of eroticism, in addition to emphasizing the languor of the pose in what seems to be a moment of blissful laziness. Another major Orient-inspired work by Ingres also hinted at the supposed exotic sexuality of the Orient. Turkish Bath (1862) depicts many unclothed women in relaxed poses, with the Arabic dance of the naked beauty in the background. The picture immerses the viewer in an atmosphere of voluptuousness and idleness.
The Turkish Bath, 1862.
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Bather of Valpincon, 1808.
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The Steam Bath. (Le Bain de Vapeur.) 1889.
The Ottoman Empire Map (1359-1856)
Friedlaender, W. (1974). David to Delacroix. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.
Masson, F. (1902). 'J.L. Gérôme. Notes et fragments des souvenirs inédits du maître', Les Arts.
Uderwood, E. G. (1931). A Short History of French Painting. London, Oxford University Press.
Weston, H. (1996). "A Look Back on Ingres." Oxford Art Journal 19(2): 114-116.
Romantic Orientalism Books
Book Review by Nissim Rejwans, Jerusalem Post --"An important book...It is bound to usher in a new epoch in the world's attitude to Oriental studies and Oriental scholarship. Never has there been as sustained and as persuasive a case against Orientalism as Said's."
By Mohammed Sharafuddin
Publisher: London: I. B. Tauris (September 15, 1996)
Did European writers and scholars create an image of the Islamic world as a place of tyranny, unreason and immorality destined to be subjected to and exploited by the civilized West? This book takes a fresh look at some of the main literary texts of the Romantic movement explored in Edward Said's classic work. Sharafuddin acknowledges wide areas of truth in Said's thesis, however, he argues that in the work of Southey, Byron, Moore and Landor, who began their careers under the sign of the French Revolution and declared their independence both from political tryanny and from national self-safisfaction, the world of Islam appears not just as an antithesis to the world of European civilization but as an alternative cultural reality with its own values.
By Gérard-Georges Lemaire.
Publisher: Könemann, 2001.
Through its fascinating texts and magnificent color photographs, this volume conveys the entire history of Orientalism in European painting. Individual chapters devoted to important artists including Eugene Delacroix, Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky and extensive articles on special themes such as the image of the harem and the Oriental fantasies of the Impressionists complete the picture.
By John M. MacKenzie
Publisher: Manchester Univ Press (July 1995)
The Orientalism debate, inspired by the work of Edward Said, has been a major source of cross-disciplinary controversy. This work offers a re-evaluation of this vast literature of Orientalism by a historian of imperalism, giving it a historical perspective. The discussion tests the notion that the Western arts received genuine inspiration from the East by examining the visual arts, architecture, design, music and theatre. The book argues that Western approaches to the Orient have been much more ambiguous and genuinely interactive than Said allowed.
Istanbul: Memories and the City
By Orhan Pamuk
Publisher: Vintage 2006.
"Part memoir, part cultural history, the vision of his home city that Pamuk presents in this book is occluded by the mists of reminiscence. He tries to make sense of the contested representations of European travellers and Turkish writers, the changing fortunes of Istanbul, and his own place within it." - Alev Adil, The Independent
Romantic Orientalism WebSites
This site has listed 1222 Orientalist artists working in the XIX and upto the beginning of the XX Century: http://orientaliste.free.fr/biographies/index.html
Written by June Taboroff. Photographs courtesy of National Gallery of Art: http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198406/the.orientalists.htm