Orientalism- a unique genre of Art

‘Orientalist Paintings’ is a genre started by the western artists in late 18th century illustrating the culture and ethnicity of Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia. After Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, significant amount of interest got stimulated in Europe regarding the Eastern culture. Many artists (mostly French) traveled extensively to study the lifestyles of the locals, the artworks created by these master’s pleased the western audiences’ growing curiosity of the oriental lifestyle.

The Harem Dance by Giulio Rosati

The remarkable and realistic paintings of Caravans, Carpet vendors, Veiled women, Bazaars, and Erotic Harems further added more charm to the mystical image of the East. Listed below are some of the most noteworthy Orientalist artists-

Jean-Léon Gérôme, known as one of the best historical artist, his visit to Egypt in 1856 triggered his interest in the oriental culture. More than two-thirds of his collection of paintings illustrates orientalist subjects. His best-known realistic works include:

Cafe House (Bashi-bazouks, Turkish soldiers, casting Bullets)

The Carpet Merchant


John Frederick Lewis– His authentic paintings were the source of inspiration for other Orientalist painters in France. Lewis spent several years in Cairo and produced exquisitely detailed artworks depicting Egyptian culture, architecture, furnishings, screens and costumes.

Encampment in the Desert of Mount Sinai

On the Banks of the Nile


Eugène Delacroix– In 1832, Delacroix traveled to North Africa, as a diplomat after France occupied Algeria. His contribution to Orientalism is immense, over 100 paintings were created by him based on North African ethnicity.s.

Arabs Traveling by Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix’s Orietalist paintings continued to further influence future master artists of twentieth century like Renoir, Matisse, Paul Klee, Kandinsky and Oskar Kokoschka.

Shown below is Renoirs painting ‘The Harem’ (Right) as homage to Eugène Delacroix’s ‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ (Left).


Giulio Rosati was one of the most recognized Italian artist of 19th Century, his expertise were not just limited to the art domain but also the cultural studies of Orientalism. His remarkably realistic artworks made considerable amount of contribution to the Orientalist art collection.

The Rug Merchant by Giulio Rosati

The Arab Riders by Giulio Rosati


Frederick Arthur Bridgman:- Enamored by the Eastern culture, Bridgman made frequent trips to North Africa starting 1872, he gathered a huge collection of costumes, architectural pieces, traditional accessories and illustrated 300+ sketches as reference materials for his noteworthy artworks.

An Interesting Game of Chess by F. A. Bridgman

At the Waters Edge by F. A. Bridgman


Rudolf Ernst:- In France, Ernst was known for his creative tin-glazed pottery with Orientalist theme. His fondness for tiles and pottery strongly reflects on his artworks, they are best known for the detailed interiors and traditional motifs.

The Perfume Makers by Rudolf Ernst

Moroccan Potter by Jean Discart

Rest in the Syrian Desert by Eugen Bracht