Cultures Crossed

John Frederick Lewis and the Art of Orientalism

Emily M. Weeks

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John Frederick Lewis (1804–1876) is one of the best-known yet least understood British Orientalist painters of the 19th century. His numerous, highly detailed Orientalist images stand in dramatic contrast to the meager written archive of the years he spent in Egypt between 1841 and 1851; art historians have long puzzled over the details of this significant period and struggled for meaningful insight into his process of artful construction.  This innovative book, the first critical monograph devoted to this acclaimed artist, draws on both newly uncovered historical data and imperial and post-colonial theory to propose a compelling new interpretation of Lewis’s paintings and biography. In addition to offering formal, historical, and theoretical examinations of Lewis’s highly nuanced subject matter, Weeks argues that Lewis crafted an ambiguous, cross-cultural identity that challenged viewers’ understanding of fact and fiction and, along with his pictures, subverted systems of patriarchal power in England and abroad.
Emily M. Weeks is an independent art historian and consultant for museums, auction houses, and private collectors in America, Europe, and the Middle East.

‘Weeks has worked well with the small amount of documentation available and supplemented this with a close study of the paintings themselves.’—Robert Irwin, Art Newspaper.

‘This handsome and well-illustrated book is based on Emily Weeks’s Yale PhD thesis, presented in 2004…’—Luke Herrmann, British Art Journal.

‘It is a handsome book: abundantly illustrated as well as copiously and informatively annotated. The prose, fluent and fluid, articulates her central thesis: that in his multi-layered and complex compositions, Lewis manipulated Middle Eastern realities to critique specific elements within British society… Emily Weeks has provided her readership with abundant new and interesting material about this enigmatic painter, even as his motives are still subject to diverse explanations.’—Caroline Williams, ASTENE.

‘Emily Weeks’s study of Lewis’s Orientalism puts some fifteen or so of his paintings through painstaking scrutiny. Backed by extensive quotations from contemporary criticism, she builds a complex cultural edifice around the harem and bazaar scenes popular with the Victorian public.’—Charlotte Gere, Burlington.
ISBN: 9780300208160
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
252 pages, 9 x 11
90 color + 32 b/w illus.
The Lure of the East

British Orientalist Painting

Edited by Nicholas Tromans; With contributions by Rana Kabb

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