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Public lecture by Briony Llewellyn on John F. Lewis at UCC
On 7 April 2016, Briony Llewellyn delivered a lecture entitled An Orientalist case study: Cross-cultural threads in the images of John Frederick Lewis (1804-1876) for History of Art.
The podcast and slides for the event can be viewed by following this link.
John Frederick Lewis’s vivid and colourful scenes of oriental life were celebrated in his lifetime for the virtuosity of their execution and the perceived authenticity of their portrayal of Islamic society. Modern criticism, in the light of Saidian and post-Saidian discourse, has been less willing to accept his images at face value and his Orientalist subject matter has provoked extensive discussion. At the same time, more carefully considered critical analysis has recognised the multi-faceted complexities of his compositions and he has been acknowledged as one of the most intriguing of all Orientalist artists. In fashioning his images, Lewis referenced a wealth of sources, both visual and textual. They drew on more than a decade of direct experience, first in Istanbul and then Cairo, where he had lived a part Eastern, part Western existence, but they were painted for a British audience imbued with the expectations and preconceptions of their time. This paper will unravel some of the cross-cultural threads that Lewis has skilfully woven together to create his images, noting the strategies he devised to underpin his authority as an interpreter of Eastern culture. Among the works to be discussed are three of his most successful watercolours: The Hhareem (1850, Cairo), The Arab Scribe - Cairo (1852) and Hhareem Life, Constantinople (1857). An amalgam of many different elements, both Oriental and Occidental, these can be seen as paradigms of the cultural interchange that characterises his work.