British photographic history

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Talk: Looking East from West: Orientalist Art and Photography

European travellers to the East were fascinated, particularly in the nineteenth century, with the lights, colours, and the different way of living. The newness of the environment they encountered inspired artists, writers and photographers and deeply impacted European art history. The Orient was seen as a far exotic land and from that dream the field of Orientalism came to be. The creations born by this fascination are not only representations of the ‘Orient’ summarised by the expression  ‘Orientalism’, but the patterns and subjects also became a source of inspiration for artists in their own creations.

This panel will explore the fascinating journeys of European artists travelling through the lights and images of the Orient creating art that was both a fascination and a representation. This complex attraction, which goes beyond the question of Orientalism, has been the subject of renewed cultural and curatorial approaches over the last 30 years. The Louvre Abu Dhabi collection already reflects this more historically accurate vision and the discussion will introduce us to a different interpretation of the ‘Orient’ including a painting by Paul Klee and nineteenth century photographs from the museum collection. The diversity of the photography collection will be presented from the early technique of daguerreotype and the fascinating testimony of French photographer Girault de Prangey to the fantasy world imagined by British photographer Roger Fenton in his London studio. This will be a starting point for exploring the ways in which Orientalist art is perceived, appropriated and re-contextualised in the Arab world today.  The long term impact of these ‘realistic’ images can still be found today in the contemporary Arab world, for example in the public display of the Sharjah Art Museum, the Orientalist Art Collection of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

Looking East from West: Orientalist Art and Photography will take place at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, May 29 from 6.45pm. Details can be found here.

* This panel is presented as part of the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series.

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