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Orientalismus - Kunstgeschichte Informationen

Orientalism is the study of Near and Far Eastern societies and cultures by Westerners. It can also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists.

In the former meaning the term is becoming obsolete, increasingly being used only to refer to the study of the East during the historical period of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Because of this, the term Orientalism has come to acquire negative connotations in some quarters, implying old-fashioned and prejudiced interpretations of Eastern cultures and peoples.

Depictions of Islamic Moors can be found in Medieval and Renaissance art, but it was not until the 19th century that "Orientalism" in the arts became an established theme. In these works the myth of the Orient as exotic and corrupt is most fully articulated. Such works typically concentrated on Near-Eastern Islamic cultures. Artists such as Eugene Delacroix and Jean-Leon Gerome painted many depictions of Islamic culture, often including lounging odalisques, and stressing lassitude and visual spectacle. When Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, director of the French Academie de peinture painted a highly-colored vision of a turkish bath, he made his eroticized Orient publicly acceptable by his diffuse generalizing of the female forms, who might all have been of the same model. If his painting had simply been retitled "In a Paris Brothel," it would have been far less acceptable. Sensuality was seen as acceptable in the exotic Orient. This Orientalizing imagery persisted in art into the early 20th century, as evidenced in Matisse's orientalist nudes. In these works the "Orient" often functions as a mirror to Western culture itself, or as a way of expressing its hidden or illicit aspects. In Gustave Flaubert's novel Salammbo ancient Carthage in North Africa is used as a foil to ancient Rome. Its culture is portrayed as morally corrupting and suffused with dangerously alluring eroticism. This novel proved hugely influential on later portrayals of ancient Semitic cultures.