Orientalism in Art Essay

Words: 1842
Pages: 8

“What was the process of ‘Orientalising’ according to Edward Said? Discuss the notion of ‘Otherness’ from both a European and ‘Eastern’ point of view using three examples of work for visual analysis.”

The Near East or the Orient was a “place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other.”[1] Edward Said describes the Orient as not an inert fact of nature but both Orient and Occident as man made.[2] The argument Said presents is that the Orient is an “idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West.”[3]
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Said emphasizes that Orientalism necessarily stressed contrast and difference. As a ‘cultural’ contestant’, the East was always one of the West’s ‘deepest and most recurring image of the Other’, an Other which was ‘mysterious, duplicitous and dark’.[16] Visions of the Orient were highly selective, creating oriental archetypes through which the ‘Otherness’ of eastern people could be readily identified. Tyranny, cruelty, laziness, lust, technical backwardness, languid fatalism and cultural decadence generally, offered a justification for imperial rule and a programme for its reforming zeal. The ethnic diversity of oriental paintings conveys a set of racial concepts, particularly through the juxtaposition of black and lighter-skinned people, while the treatment of women is the clearest indicator of attitudes towards women in the nineteenth century. These attributes can be found in the painting by Ingres, Odalisque and Slave and also Gerome’s The Slave Market. In the work Odalisque and Slave, Ingres focuses on the exotic female body and also emphasising on sort of the luxurious life that she led. Ingres seems to