Page Six
   Market in Jaffa, now a part of Tel Aviv, was painted by Gustav Bauernfeind in 1887. Bauernfeind was extremely brave to paint in cities like Jaffa and Damascus. Jaffa was frequently under quarantine for plague and westerners could be attacked in the streets of Damascus by religious zealots. Bauernfeind would show up in these cities in western dress with bulky photographic equipment and somehow survive and get his work done.

   Bauernfeind originally studied architecture before turning to art. Though from a religious family he described himself as an atheist and adopted a more universal spirituality. He settled in Jerusalem in 1898 and died there six years later. He had great talent at depicting ordinary life and produced beautiful paintings that are considered among the most historically accurate images we have today of the Middle East in the nineteenth century.

Click the image to see the entire painting

'Market in Jaffa' by Gustav Bauernfeind, German. Oil, 1887.
'The Moroccan' by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer, Algerian. Oil, 1900.
   A 20th century image painted in the impressionistic style. Of French descent Lucien Levy-Dhurmer was born in Algeria and traveled extensively. Besides painting he was known for his beautiful tile work.

   With time the Orientalist movement died out; not from any lack of interest but rather that other recording mediums took over. Photography was an easier skill to learn and was inherently more accurate. As the art world switched from realism to experimentation the role of the artist in society waned, and the artist was replaced by the photographer and the cinematographer.

   We are now starting to look back at this period with renewed understanding and respect for the accomplishments of these artists and the world they recorded.

'The White Slave' by Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte de Nouy, French. Oil, 1888.
   Artists have always delighted in nudes. This painting reminds us of a time when beautiful hair and skin were more important than thinness. The title 'The White Slave' suggests that the artist was inspired by the theme of erotic possession; a theme that was dealt with often in harem scenes by artists and writers of the day.

   Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte de Nouy was originally part of the Neo-Greek movement and studied first under Gleyre and later Gerome. He traveled extensively in the Middle East and besides his paintings was known for his archeological and descriptive drawings such as the one below.

'Minaret in Algiers' by Lecomte de Nouy

   Life in harems were full of elaborate affairs and rituals. Status was extremely important to the women and they often competed with each other in clothing and possessions. Male artists were not allowed into harems but western women were and they provided the descriptions of the activities that went on inside.
   Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was the wife of the British ambassador to Turkey. She spent two years in Istanbul from 1716 to 1718 and her amazing accounts of life within the harems were widely read. Later other European women such as Sophia Poole were able to explore these secret worlds and write of their experiences as well.
   Although polygamy was and still is practiced in the Middle East and Africa; harems were unusual. Harems had existed for thousands of years and were maintained by the aristocracy as symbols of wealth and power.

'The Reception' by Frederick John Lewis, British. Oil, 1873.
'A Bashi-Bazouk' by Jean-Leon Gerome, French. Oil, 1869.
    Often we look at these images and wonder about the lives these people led. What kind of a life did this man build for himself? Did he have a wife or children? Are his descendants alive today, one hundred and twenty three years later?

   Great art teaches us about life and life is made up of individual lives. Our lives; and the lives of people such as this man.

 

'The Snake Charmer' by Etienne Dinet, French. Oil, 1889.
   When Etienne Dinet converted to Islam he took the name Hadj Nasr Ed Dine Dini. Rather than a renunciation of his french heritage he sought to reconcile the two peoples and achieve equal rights and respect for the Algerians.

   This painting was made in the open air in a village south of Bou-Saada in central Algeria and the people in it were real. Six months after Dinet completed this picture the snake charmer died from a poisonous bite.

'Berber Woman' by Emile Vernet-Lecomte, French. Oil, 1870.
   The name Berber comes from the Roman Barbar or Barbarian. In their own language the Berbers call themselves Amazighs or Free Men. Their race is thought to have existed as far back as 3000 BC.

   Like the Ould Nail people, women in Amazigh culture hold higher status than women in Arabic culture. In 760 AD the Amazigh high priestess Kahina, who was in fact a Jewish convert, led her people against the Arab invaders and drove them back for a time, though eventually losing her life in the struggle.

   Emile Vernet-Lecomte was the son of a military painter and his uncle was the famous Horace Vernet.

   It was Edward Lear who was first credited with calling Lebanon "The Switzerland of the Middle East." Lear was an epileptic who had numerous seizures. In addition he was both asthmatic and hypersensitive to climate. Because of his condition he spent much time away from people. This combined with Victorian England's condemnation of his homosexuality made life very difficult for him. Sometimes it is those who suffer greatly who contribute most to society.

'The Cedars of Lebanon' by Edward Lear, British. Oil, 1862.









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