Sunday, July 21, 2013

Orientalism: A Selection of Prints and Drawings

Where: National Gallery of Art, East Building

When: through September 23, 2013

I would have had a hard time finding this exhibit, but I remembered there's a little room at the back of the "Small French Paintings," and sure enough, there is was.  Good to know where you're headed, as the docents didn't know, the last time I saw a show in this tucked-away space.

Orientalism was a 19th century phenomenon.  As contact with North Africa increased, romantic artists exaggerated the exotic character of the people and the animals in this part of the world.  You'll see fearsome warriors in elaborate costumes, as well as Royal Tiger by Delacroix, pictured above.  I very much liked this picture; although he's lying in repose, there's an intensity about this animal, as if he could strike at any moment.

I'm certain that a backlash against this movement was part of a show I saw at the Museum of African Art, the one featuring the art of Lalla Essaydi.  It was very interesting to see examples of the works she railed against - it puts that part of her work in context.  I think I could appreciate it more, having seen this little show.

Verdict: Well worth a few minutes of your time, if you're at the National Gallery anyway. 

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