Studying history and understanding the roles it has played in molding today’s society is one of the great joys of students studying creative arts. The knowledge of how a style came about, what had influenced the great painters and artist of the generation provides the basis for our own personal growth and also urges great artists to create great paintings inspired by ancient cultures.
This is why the study of orientalism and its influences on 19th century art is important to everyone although its importance to artist trumps all. Therefore if you are a literature student who has been saddled with writing a paper on orientalism in arts, do not view this task as a burden but as a subject matter you need to learn in order to prosper.
This article is also intended to make your writing task easier for it will provide sample topics and a sample essay which should serve as a great piece of referencing material on how to introduce orientalism as well as draft intelligent, and structured essays on your chosen topic.
This concludes our 20 topics made available for you to give you choice. They can also serve as a source of inspiration for those who plan to tweak the subject matter a little bit to fit your particular needs. Be sure to also check our 10 facts for presentation on orientalism in the 19th century and our guide with specific instructions on how to nail such an assignment. Next is a sample essay on one of the topics listed above and that should also serve as a template when writing your orientalism in 19th century art.
Orientalism is the general term used by scholars in art, history, literature and music to depict eastern cultures from Eastern Asia, South Asia and North Africa. While orientalism in art can narrowly be defined as art created by western artists of the 19th century depicting life and the culture of the orients.
Although the Orients, which means the East, had been known and visited by people of the West since the 12th century, the longing to visit the orients and create art concerning its cultures became widespread in the 19th century due to the exotic tales and the art they inspired in the hearts of Western audiences. The year 1798 which saw Napoleon invaded Egypt in his quest to expand France’s international reach is officially credited with reviving the interest of Western artists and scholars in the orients.
The French presence in Egypt wasn’t just military in nature for artist and scholars tailed the army with the aim of documenting Napoleon’s battles and the culture of the faraway places they encountered. This led to written works and landscape depictions of life in the orients as early as 1801. The Romanization of oriental cultures, its women and religion commenced sometime in 1820 as stories of violence, slavery and barbarism were told in the West by people who claimed to have been in the orients. These stories had drastically increased Western interest about life in the Far East and resulted in multiple pilgrimages by westerners to the Orients.
In France, the term orientalism in art was finally coined and the Society of Orientalist Painters was founded in 1893 to provide artists painting depictions of Eastern life an official umbrella to congregate. At this time, European artist had started influencing the public opinion of oriental culture with art works that became famous and quite popular in Europe. These art works which emphasized on violence, eroticism and barbarism painted easterners in a certain light and served as propagandistic tools for European leaders, interested in conquering the orients.
Orientalism scholar Edward Said, credits 19th century painters with dehumanizing oriental cultures and creating an enabling environment that supported European exploitation at the time. Notable artists such as Jean-Leon Gerome, Jean-Auguste Ingres and Delacroix, reinforced the belief in oriental barbarism with their famous paintings. Ironically, the inspiration for their paintings were from 3rd party accounts and the vivid imaginations of the artists themselves.
An example of how 19th century painters affected the public opinion on oriental culture was on the subject matter of Muslim women and harems in the orients. Artist depictions told highly sexualized stories of oriental women, while panting its men as randy totalitarian masters of the household who used and discarded women at their whims. The effects of these depictions could be seen in Europe’s approach to slavery, their disregard for women of the orients and the irrational fear of Islam which led to several wars aimed at bringing civilization to the orients.
The influence of 19th century painters can be likened to that of the media today and the power it wields in shaping the perceptions of people concerning a subject matter. Although not all 19th century painters created orientalist art as tools for propaganda, the end result of how these artworks were used was inevitable due to the elitist posturing of European leaders in the 19th century.
Suren, L. (2010). Photography, Vision and Production of Modern Bodies, 70-80.
Irwin, R. (2006). Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents
Princeton Archeology Journal, Global and Views: Nineteenth Century Travel Photographs.
Jiman, M. (2009). Representation of Middle-Eastern Women in Orientalist Paintings in Nineteenth Century: A Comparison of French and Italian Orientalists.
Alexandra, J. (2009). Orientalism in French Nineteenth Century Art: The Enigma of the East.
Nancy, D. (2008). The Origins of Orientalism.
Thomson, G. (2008). The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences: Orientalism.