Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gerome: The Charmer Seduces Himself

The Jean-Leon Gerome exhibit at the Getty last summer has already moved to Paris, but I stumbled upon a book review of the catalog in the LA Times "Beyond the Surfaces of a Glittering Imperialist." Jumping off from questions raised by essays in the catalog, Jorie Finkel asks two questions that struck my Orientalish vein : 1) Though Gerome's representations are limited by the social perspectives of his time and place, to what degree are charges against his images is drawn on assumptions and fantasies of the viewers themselves? And, 2) noting collectors of Gerome and other Orientalist artists in "orientalized" regions such as Turkey and Dubai, "Can a painting still be considered racist if members of the race depicted apparently take pride in it?" Or dancing? No answers here. Plenty of opinions and complexities. And what if the technique makes it aesthetically beautiful?

Also look at the comments for a considered reaction and a reference to one of the must-reads on Orientalist paintings, The Orientalists by Kristen Davies. The painting is Gerome's famous "Snake Charmer" that adorns Edward Said's seminal work Orientalism.

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