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Colorful sketches from travels in the Middle East of the 19th century by American artist Frederick Bridgman
Colorful sketches from travels in the Middle East of the 19th century by American artist Frederick Bridgman

The French capital has always attracted creative bohemians, it was a real haven for artists, writers and romantic people. Therefore, almost all new-fangled trends, styles and trends in art originated here. In our publication you will get acquainted with the works Frederick Arthur Bridgman - one of the most popular painters working in the direction of Orientalism, which originated in France at the beginning of the 19th century and dominated the galleries of Europe until its end.

What is Orientalism?

To begin with, I would like to clarify the term orientalism (from the Latin orientalis - oriental). This direction arose due to the fascination of Europeans with Asian culture. In the 19th century, widespread in France, Orientalism was already present in all spheres of the cultural life of European society - in architecture and music, literature and poetry, as well as in painting. Musicians, poets, painters massively in their work began to use plots, motives and stylistic techniques of the art of the East, adapting them to the European culture of the New Age.

Ambassador. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

This trend was especially vividly manifested in the paintings of artists of that era. Many painters literally "got sick" with North Africa, the Middle East and China. Therefore, in order to believably create pictures in a new direction, they set off on long-term travels, bringing from their travels magnificent material for their future works. Among these were Eugene Delacroix, Gabrielle Descamps, as well as Frederic Arthur Bridgman, who made several trips to the countries of Africa and the Middle East during his life.

Present. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

In fairness, I must say that there were such masters who, without leaving Europe, managed to enter the galaxy of Orientalists, for example, Antoine-Jean Gros, who was known for his oriental motives.

Cleopatra on the terraces of Philae. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

About the artist

Artist Frederick Arthur Bridgman is called American only by his place of birth, since he was born in 1847 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Massachusetts. At that time, his father worked there as a doctor, but when he died, his mother took three-year-old Frederick with his brother to Boston, to their homeland.

Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

At the age of five, Frederick dreamed of becoming an actor, but it so happened that at sixteen he left for New York and became an apprentice engraver at the American Bank-Note Company. At the same time, the young man became interested in painting and began attending evening classes at the Brooklyn Art Association, and then began studying at the National Academy of Design. In 1865 he first exhibited his paintings at the Brooklyn Art Association and was a great success. As a result, in 1866, with the support of Brooklyn entrepreneurs, 19-year-old Bridgeman went to France in the hope of conquering Paris with his creativity.

Landscape with a river. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

But, it turned out to be not so easy. Moreover, the young novice master had to settle not in the capital, but in the small village of Pont-Aven near Brittany, which was a commune for South American painters working under the supervision of the landscape painter Robert Wylie. The young artist, having found himself among the already established masters, strove to learn something new from everyone.So, impressed by the work of Robert Wylie, Bridgman became seriously interested in landscapes. Moreover, having good chances in the future to become an excellent landscape painter. But by the end of 1866, the young man with great difficulty managed to enter the famous studio of Jean-Léon Jerome in Paris. There the young artist studied painting for four years, and spent the summer months in Pont-Aven.

"Carnival in Brittany". Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

The result of painstaking work was not long in coming. After leaving Jerome's studio as a first-class artist, Bridgman regularly began exhibiting at the prestigious Paris Salon. His painting "Carnival in Brittany" was a great success at the Salon exhibition in 1870, after which he sent it to America for an exhibition at the Brooklyn Gallery.

In the circus arena. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman Rivals. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

Traveling to the Middle East

Inspired by success and full of creative plans in 1872, Frederic embarks on his first journey. He visited Spain, then North Africa, starting with Tangier, which struck the artist with a vivid contrast: the catchy colors of nature and the sheer poverty in which the people of the African continent lived. Then he moved to Algeria. And the final destination of the artist's wanderings was Egypt. After living for some time in Cairo, he went to the sources of the Nile and returned to Europe.

Frederic Arthur Bridgman in his Paris studio, circa 1885, Frederic Arthur Bridgman

During his almost two-year journey, Bridgman worked hard, capturing everything he saw, not only in memory, but also creating a huge variety of pencil sketches, sketches, ink drawings, and oils. The artist transferred all this to his canvases, depicting for centuries a riot of colors, and national color, and the images of oriental beauties that impressed him for life.

On the terrace. / Moroccan girl. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

The so-called Algerian cycle of paintings, created during this period, was brought and exhibited at the Paris Salon, where the artist was expected to be incredibly successful. It is precisely this success and feat of the master-orientalist that he will go to North Africa again next year.

Interesting game, circa 1881 Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Upon his return, in the mid-70s, Bridgeman in Paris met Russian realist artists - I. E. Repin and V. D. Polenov - and their work. This further contributed to the strengthening of his interest in the realistic direction in painting.

Orange seller. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

It should be noted that the peak of Frederick Bridgman's career and popularity fell at the time when he arranged a personal exhibition of his unique paintings in front of his compatriots. Namely, in the American Art Gallery, where more than three hundred of his works were exhibited. The American public was delighted and appreciated not only the diverse themes of the works, but also the high quality of their artistic performance, precision, freshness and beauty. Following the exhibition, Bridgeman was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Arts.

Fortuneteller. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

The artist returned to Algeria a few years later in 1885-86. And this time with his wife, but now not only to work, but rather to improve the health of his wife, who suffered from a hereditary neurological disease. She was strongly advised by the doctors to change the climate. During these years, he continues to work fruitfully on his Algerian cycle. Everything that did not come out of the artist's brush at that time was a resounding success both in France and in America itself. Five of his works participated in the 1889 World Exhibition in Paris. And already in 1890, his personal exhibition took place at the Fifth Avenue Gallery in New York, where this time about 400 of his paintings were already presented. Frederick was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor for his services.

Flirting with an Armenian policeman in Cairo. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman Portrait of an oriental girl. /Circassian. (1881) By Frederick Arthur Bridgman Bathing. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

Symbolism, romanticism, ancient mythology

However, by the end of the 19th century, the artist's passion for the Middle East faded into the background. He felt the need for a change in subject matter and moved on to the genre of symbolism, and then turned to historical, biblical themes and ancient mythology. However, by that time the popularity of Orientalism itself in Europe had come to naught.

Boat trip. Posted by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman On the tennis court. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman Forest nymphs. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman Laundress. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

And after the First World War, all the work of Frederick Bridgman abruptly lost its relevance. He moved from Paris to Lyons-la-Foret (Normandy, France), where he lived until the end of his days, without leaving painting.At the beginning of 1928, he died in poverty, unfortunately, almost completely forgotten.


Procession of the sacred bull Anubis. Written by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Read a fascinating story about the plot of one of the famous paintings by Frederick Bridgman in our publication:The Mystery of the Ancient Ceremony in Bridgman's Painting: Procession of the Bull of Anubis.

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