Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Aspden, Rachel. "Imagining the East." NEW STATESMAN May 29, 2008.

Once dismissed as imperialist fantasies about the Muslim world, British orientalist paintings are once again becoming popular. Their exotic visions tell us much about the social and cultural history of Victorian Britain. A snake writhes over the desert sands that half submerge the Sphinx. A crafty merchant examines a coin presented by two anxious, veiled customers. Heavily laden camels kneel at an encampment. Bored, gorgeously clad concubines lounge in the secret depths of a harem. The British orientalist paintings of Tate Britain's forthcoming exhibition "The Lure of the East" are colourful, exotic, often technically brilliant. But they are also controversial, variously perceived to be collectible masterpieces, ugly kitsch, or imperialist fantasies on a par with tabloid images of burqa-clad women and bearded Islamists. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.newstatesman.com/art/2008/05/british-orientalist-paintings.

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