PRINT July/August 2020



Charles Théodore Frère, Grand Pyramid de Gyzeh, n.d., oil on panel, 8 1⁄2 × 15 1⁄8".

ORIENTALIST PAINTING dates back at least to the Renaissance but was especially popular from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth, a period that tellingly coincided with the heyday of colonialism. Intent on displaying “Oriental” (read: Ottoman and Arab, mostly) life in all its strangeness and colorfulness, artists working in this subgenre of academic painting espoused a number of thematic categories that accounted for most of their output. These included portraits of Oriental stereotypes (tribal chieftains, guards, or mystics), street views or interiors, sun-drenched picturesque landscapes, and biblical scenes. But the most popular subject was the harem, which allowed artists to parade female nudity in safely distant foreign settings, thus projecting Western lasciviousness onto the exoticized East.

Dismissed from the annals of modern art and ignored for most of the

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