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Susan Edwards September 1, 2 min read. Image courtesy the artist. Works such as The Snake Charmer , said Nochlin, manifested an imperialist, colonialist view of the East, with their representations of a timeless world seen through white eyes—yet allegedly absent of Western influence.

And yet, Nochlin now admits that she was also seduced by these paintings, with their dazzling surfaces and cinematic storytelling. Another view came from Lalla Essaydi, a contemporary artist from Morocco.

While aesthetically beautiful, she said, their depictions of nude women in public are deeply upsetting within Middle Eastern culture—a culture in which the mere appearance of women in public is a complicated matter. Essaydi pointed out that Western depictions of the Orient have had a real impact on the Middle East.

For example, she told the audience that the veil was introduced to protect women from the Western gaze. In her own work, Essaydi aims to return dignity and self-determination to the women she depicts. Some of her images draw directly upon Orientalist tropes, such as the odalisque, common to Western imagery.

Westerners imagining the Orient as a distant place frozen in time may be an old story, but these kinds of Orientalist images are still prevalent in our visual culture today. Movies such as Eat Pray Love , Syriana , and Prince of Persia have been criticized for their caricatures of Asia , a continent that sometimes seems to exist for the sole purpose of helping rich white people find themselves.

Susan was a writer and editor for the Web Group at the J. Paul Getty Trust, and is now associate director for digital content at the Hammer Museum.

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Rethinking Orientalism, Again

She appears to make her major claims on the art of this time period in very explicitly. Elements she focuses her theories on are the experiences of the artist, the angle that is present, and the purposeful absences in the art. Artists of this time should capture the moments in history, as thought by Linda Nochlin. However, she makes the assertation that the point of view is primarily meant for a Westerner, which is too generalized for the perceivers after the era in which the art was made. It could be staked that Westerners of different occupations, genders, and even regions could view a piece of art in polar outlooks.


Inspired by the East. How the Islamic world influenced Western Art

Besides a large number of paintings from the late 19th century, a few historical maps as well as objects of arts and craft are shown. The title, however, misleads the visitor: It is not an exhibition dedicated to the influence of the East on the West, but rather a show of orientalist art that presents an imaginary Orient from the perspective of the colonial West. While the exhibition itself is rather disappointing and the critical perspective is sought in vain, the accompanying catalogue provides information on the various discourses on Orientalism. It is not the intention of the curators to provide a glimpse into non-European artworks, their individual aesthetics and their continuation in European art apart from the adoption of ornaments, which — often examined and clearly recognizable — mark the aesthetic inscription from East to West. But on closer observation it becomes clear from the details walking stick, shoes, and posture that it is a depiction of traditional Christian devotional gestures and modes of representation, which were, however, embedded in an oriental setting and dressed in the ornamental and splendid costume of this region — a familiar sight in a new costume, which makes it both foreign and accessible at the same time.

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