Parry’s ‘Orientalist Lives’: “Simply outstanding and original work”

“In the beautifully and profusely illustrated pages of Orientalist Lives: Western Artists in the Middle East, 1830 – 1920”, [James] Parry reveals what led this surprisingly diverse and idiosyncratic group of men (and some women) to often remote and potentially dangerous locations, from Morocco to Egypt, the Levant, and Turkey,” writes Midwest Book Review in a recent review of Parry’s new book.

Based on research in museums, libraries, archives, galleries, and private collections across the world, Parry examines their journeys of cultural and artistic discovery. But who exactly were the Orientalist artists? How accurate were their depictions of the Orient? Did they travel to those distant lands to contemplate firsthand the subjects for their canvases or did they simply paint from back home out of ‘Orientalized’ studios? Parry descries what inspired many—from the early pioneer David Roberts through the heyday of leading stars such as Jean-Leon Gerome and Frederick Arthur Bridgman, to Orientalism’s post-1900 decline—to set off “on what were, in many cases, the most important journeys they would ever undertake; their reactions, artistic and otherwise, to what they encountered overseas; how they dealt with living and working in such difficult yet stimulating conditions.”

“[The author] describes how these traveling artists prepared for their expeditions, coped with working in unfamiliar and challenging surroundings, engaged with local people, and then took home to their studios the memories, sketches, and collections of artifacts necessary to create the works for which their audiences clamored,” notes Midwest Book Review, before concluding that this is “a simply outstanding and original work of exceptional and accessible scholarship.”

Click here to read the complete review.



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