Christine Peltre

Christine Peltre

Christine Peltre is professor of the history of contemporary art at the Université des Sciences Humaines in Strasbourg. The author of a book on the encounter of nineteenth-century European artists with Greece (Retour en Arcadie, 1997), she is also a specialist in Orientalism and has published widely on the subject (L'Atelier du voyage, 1995).

Orientalism In Art

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The romance and exoticism of the Orient, as captured by 19th-century European and American painters, are brought to life in this important volume.

Nineteenth-century Europe was fascinated by the Orient. Napoleon's Egyptian campaign of 1798 initiated this phenomenon, and its history-the most notable episodes of which include the Greek uprising against the Turks in 1821 and the French taking of Algiers in 1830-was closely linked to changing attitudes toward the "Eastern question." Artists of the period, too, were captivated by these events, and the rich body of imagery they produced is the subject of this volume.

Incorporating much recent research, author Christine Peltre's elegant text retraces Orientalism's artistic history, in which the French and British schools predominated. The "high poetry" of the Romantics' Orient, often inspired by Byron or Hugo, strove for dramatic effect, as the works of David Roberts, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, and Eugène Delacroix attest. A different brand of imagery was produced by the "ethnographic gaze" of the century's middle years, practiced by artists who visited the sites they represented, such as John Frederick Lewis, Eugène Fromentin, and Jean-Léon Gérôme, as well as by others who remained studio-bound, including J.-A.-D. Ingres and Adolphe Monticelli. Work of this kind was eventually superseded by a "third style,"a fusion of European and Eastern elements, as seen in the work of August Macke, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Henri Matisse.

Witnesses to a history that they influenced in subtle ways through their imagery, the Orientalist painters also produced a history of their own, that of a spiritual and formal quest to find in the "East" the ideal of "primitive" purity.Illustrated with more than two hundred expertly selected Orientalist paintings and drawings, Orientalism in Art is an indispensable volume for art historians and anyone lured by the romance and exoticism of Orientalist art.

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