Orientalist - orientalism

DEFINITION

A 19th-Century movement, predominantly in France and England and reflected by American artists and writers, that expressed fascination with the cultures of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The geographical concept of most Orientalists was that the Orient was one vast region with a cohesive, uniform culture composed of rather simplistic, passive peoples. Much of the fascination grew from western perceptions that these Eastern peoples were exotic, sensual, and attuned to mysterious religion and philosophy. The first Orientalists were 19th-Century English scholars who translated writing of the 'Orient' into English and French so that occupying westerners such as the English would have knowledge of the people they dominated. The period from 1870 to 1880 was a formative period for Orientalism among American artists, and general interest in Orientalism grew among western people with increasing travel opportunities. Fascination with Orientalism was expressed at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 where Oriental villages were fabricated with snake charmers, Algerian dancers, odalisques and turbaned Moors. Artistic expression embraced many subjects including realistic and imaginary genre scenes, harems, landscapes, eroticism, and religion. The movement in art played out with the advance of Modernism such as Cubism in the early part of the 20th Century. Among Orientalist American artists are Henry Ossawa Tanner, Maurice Braun, Hovsep Pushman, Theodore Wores, Frederic Arthur Bridgman and Helen Hyde. Sources: AskART biographies; Susan Fort, Sotheby's New York; http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Orientalism.html; 'Henry Ossaw Tanner and the Lure of Paris', "American Art Review", December 2005. (LPD)

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