Bridgman, Morning on the Bosphorus - Art Collection Series 1

September 06, 2016

Bridgman, Morning on the Bosphorus - Art Collection Series 1

 

Frederick Arthur Bridgman, Morning on the Bosphorus.

 

Bridgman, Morning on the Bosphorus

Born in Alabama, Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928) is one of the most prominent and well-respected artists of the American Orientalism school. Orientalism refers to the attempt of nineteenth century artists to realistically document the Near East. This period was the height of European colonialist expansion, hence the perception that these artworks were designed to perpetuate and validate European dominance over the supposedly culturally inferior Islamic Orient.

Through the hazy atmospheric perspective within Morning on the Bosphorus, the distinctive shape of Emperor Justinian I's sixth century Hagia Sophia, or Church of Holy Wisdom, is unmistakable. The Bosphorus Strait marks the boundary between Europe and Asia and also divides the city of Istanbul in two. Bridgman reflects this by dividing his painting into two components. The ladies on the right each have very light skin, a sign of their upper class status as well as a subtle reference to the perceived superiority of light skinned Europeans. The figures on the left wear dark, dreary clothes in contrast to the four women who wear lively colors and are adorned with beautiful jewelry. These lounging women reveal another aspect of Orientalism: the depiction of Middle Eastern people as inactive, even lazy.

The Middle Eastern garb that the figures wear, the hookah pipe, and the Oriental rug are common details in Orientalist painting, used to emphasize the exotic location being presented. This painting partially reflects what Bridgman observed throughout his travels in North Africa and ultimately can be interpreted as a tale of two vastly different cultures.

(Written by: Anne Brandt, Genevieve Charette, Jill Hunte)

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