Women of Algiers (in Their Apartment). 1834. Oil on canvas. 180 × 229cm
This semester I am tutoring an art history course called 'Travel, Art and Empire'. Using Said's notion of Orinetalism we will be re-examining the work of 19th and early 20thC (mostly French and British) artists that depicts Oriental themes and subjects. I thought it might be fun to give a little round up of each week's themes here for those of you who are interested in art.
A short intro: In 1978 Said coined the term 'Orientalism', using it to describe the way in which Western scholar's have 'dealt with' the East: "by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient". Said was a literary critic and focused his argument on writings by 19th century French and British writers.
In 1989, Art Historian Linda Nochlin extended Said's ideas to art in her essay 'The Imaginary Orient'. She analysed the cover-art of Said's book, Gerome's Snake Charmer, illustrating how Said's literary criticisms could be extended to art. I won't rehash Nochlin's essay - but it is well worth a read! She is such an energetic and engaging writer.
This week we looked at Delacroix's Moroccan journey. His diaries offer vivid descriptions of his experiences, but also contribute to an already established practice of writing about and painting the East as a place of fantasy and violence, and as an ancient space preserved in time. His journal shows his concerted effort to describe and catalogue visual details that then resurface in his art throughout the rest of his career. His writings are the observations of an artist, full of visual detail and exacting descriptions that read like notes for a painting.
The Jewish Bride, Tangier, 1832
The Jewish Wedding, Salon of 1841
pages from Delocroix's Jorunal: Water-colour sketch for 'The Jewish Wedding'