1847 (Tuskegee, Alabama)
1928 (Rouen, France)
New York / France
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Oriental-exotic-mythic genre and portrait painting
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born and raised in Alabama, Frederick Bridgman became known for his
Oriental motif paintings of North Africa, inspired by his teacher
Jean-Leon Gerome. However, later in his career he diverged to genre and
As a young man, he moved to New York and
worked as an engraver and studied at the National Academy of Design
where he enrolled in 1863. Three years later, he began a
life-long residency in Paris where he became one of the leading and
earliest members of the Pont-Avon artists colony in Brittany.
Bridgman studied from 1867 to 1871 with Gerome who encouraged his
students to paint exotic historical subjects.
In 1872, he made
the first of many trips to Spain and North Africa. He specialized
in Orientalist and archaeological subjects, and his detailed,
brilliantly colored, exotic scenes, especially of Algeria and Egypt,
brought him tremendous fame and patronage in the 1870s and 1880s.
became a proficient tennis player, a subject that he sometimes used in
his paintings, and was also a poet, violinist and composer of
symphonies and orchestral works. He was the author of Winters in Algeria (1890) and L'Anarchie dans l'Art stating his position on Impressionism, 1898).
David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk (Editor), Who Was Who in American Art
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
Arthur Bridgman was one of the few great American practitioners of the
Orientalist genre, whose role was critical in the period between
1870-1880, the formative years of Orientalism in America. The cult of
the Orient culminated in the 19th century with the Chicago World's Fair
of 1893, where the `Orient' was constructed in the form of fabricated,
exotic, and purported realistic villages. |
These popular exhibits
showcased actual individuals wearing their supposed cultural dress, and
artificially performing functions from their daily lives. Snake
charmers, Algerian dancers, odalisques and turbaned Moors, graced the
Exposition's halls in a fair that ultimately celebrated American might
and prosperity. Bridgman's success and popularity led him to serve as
a member of the Paris advisory committee for this exposition.
Sotheby's New York, Susan Fort researcher and editor (2003) of a forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.
|Biography from Abby M Taylor Fine Art:|
|Frederick Arthur Bridgman is well known as an Orientalist
painter. He produced a large number of pictures in his lifetime,
traveled extensively and kept company with some of the better-known
artists of the 19th century. |
Spending much of his life as an expatriate, Bridgman had very curious
beginnings. Born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1847, he had a father who was
a practicing physician from the north who died when Frederick was only
three. By his early teens, with the Civil War just around the
corner, Frederick and his family relocated to Boston where he soon
began to apprentice at the American Banknote Company. He excelled
as an engraver as he took classes in drawing and design at night.
He first exhibited a painting at the Brooklyn Art Association in 1865.
1866, Bridgman, just 19 years old, made the courageous decision to move
to France where he began to study under Philadelphia artist Robert
Wylie who was at the head of a growing American art colony in Pont-Aven
in Brittany. Bridgman’s discipline and commitment were intense. Within
two years in fact, his talent earned him a spot in the atelier of the
most famous and most accomplished of all Orientalist painters,
Jean-Leon Gérôme. Bridgman quickly earned the respect of his teacher
and the other students.
Bridgman made his first trip to
Tangier in 1872. It was this trip that would alter his original
plan to be a painter of American landscapes and would expose him to
scenes and subjects that would eventually be associated directly with
Bridgman’s first trip took him through Morocco and Algiers, the latter
of which was a favorite of French travelers at the time. Bridgman
became fascinated with the color, light and lifestyle of Arab and
Berber people as experienced in cafes, bazaars and private living
quarters. In his travels, Bridgman experienced both the luxurious
life found in any European colonial establishment as well as the barren
and austere life of the locals when he traveled away from the bigger
cities and into the desert and oasis regions.
And Bridgman, like many of his painter-traveler counterparts of the
era, was not immune to the hostile conditions of the Sahara
desert. Near the town of Biskra he suffered a sunstroke which
brought him within an inch of his life. He kept detailed notes of
his journeys, and after convalescing, he published an account of his
experiences in his book, Winters in Algiers.
would rent a studio in the poor quarters of Biskra where he began to do
extensive studies and paintings of models. This was not an easy
task among the private, weary locals who were always suspicious of
European travelers. Bridgman began to learn Arabic and maintained
an intensive work schedule. This is the period during which he
would develop the elements and techniques that would eventually define
his style. He spent 1873-74 in Egypt, touring up the Nile with
friend and fellow American painter, Charles Sprague Pearce. In
Cairo they stayed in the now infamous Shepheard’s Hotel.
experimented with many of the different genres within the Orientalist
style, including Biblical recreations, archeological reconstructions of
Ancient Egyptian life, Arab street scenes and desert scenes, excelling
in all of them. But it was the depiction of the private lives of the
people of North Africa, and particularly the interior lives of women
that would become Bridgman’s most well known subject. Whether in actual
harem scenes in which several women lived under the husbandry of one
man or simply the day-to-day lives of mothers and children in their
Bridgman practically defined the genre of the Near Eastern
female scene. While access to such places as private homes or interior
courtyards has been characteristically difficult even for locals, let
alone foreigners, artists like Jean Leon Gérôme and Bridgman seemed to have
faired better than many others in befriending locals and earning their
trust enough to sketch and paint their private homes. This implied
impenetrability or the ‘secret life’ of the odalisques became a great
rage in Europe, and artists including Bridgman had no trouble in
finding eager buyers for his pictures.
is one such picture. Bridgman had favorite elements that he often
used in great variation including seated women around a low table,
mothers and daughters doing household chores, or relaxing in the
afternoon in open patios or near the sunlight of an open courtyard.
Orientalist Interior contains all these elements. Using the basic
characteristics of North African, Moorish architecture and interior
design, Bridgman was able to produce a number of such pictures both en
route while traveling and when back in Europe in his studio space. This
picture is dated 1900, but many pictures of a similar style may have
been painted many years before and many years after this date. The warm
glow from nearby sunlight, the spattering of sunlight through the
wooden lattice of the wall mashrabiyas, hanging urns and draped cloth
and carpets were all favorite tools and props of Bridgman, which he went
back to throughout his life.
In 1888, he had a show in New York
at the American Art Gallery of more than three hundred of his works.
Shortly after he was elected to the National Academy of Design, and in
1907 was made an officer of the Legion d’Honneur. Bridgman’s career
remained on top until the outbreak of the First World War around which
time he retired to a home he had in Lyons-la-Foret in Normandy. He died
Paris Salon, 1868, 1877 (medal)
Paris Exposition, 1878, 18889, 1900 (medals)
Munich, 1891 (gold)
Berlin, 1892 (medal)
Antwerp, 1894 (medal)
Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 (medal)
St. Louis Exposition, 1904 (medal)
Mulhouse Museum, France, 1926
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Academy of Art, Leningrad
|Biography from Anderson Galleries, Inc.:|
|Frederick Arthur Bridgman was born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1847.
Sensing the north-south tensions prior to the Civil War, his family
returned to their native Boston soon after Frederick’s birth.
They later moved to New York, where Frederick began to show his
artistic talent. As a teenager, he joined the American Banknote
Company as an apprentice engraver.|
In 1865 and 1866 Bridgman
exhibited works at the Brooklyn Art Association. Encouraged by his
success, and with the sponsorship of a group of Brooklyn businessmen,
the young artist set out for Paris. In the autumn of 1866, he
joined the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme where he studied for 4 years,
spending the summers in Pont-Avent.
During the winters of 1872
and 1873, Bridgman traveled to Spain and North Africa, starting in
Tangiers and traveling on to Algeria. He sampled the local
nightlife and spent afternoons exploring the surrounding villages and
oases on horseback. It was during this time that he began to
paint North African scenes depicting the exotic culture in which he was
immersed. Bridgeman remained in North Africa for the next five
years, though he regularly took part in the Paris Salons, as well as
exhibited in several London venues.
Bridgman’s travels in North
Africa and Egypt brought about a radical change in his palate, which
became much paler. He was also a photographer and often worked
from his photographs when painting, depicting the world of richly
adorned women in veils and using transparent effects, and white on
white. As well as his scenes of everyday life, Bridgman painted
historical subjects from ancient Egypt and Assyria.
The next ten
years was a period of uninterrupted success. In 1890 an
exhibition of his pictures took place at Fifth Avenue Galleries in New
York. As his career progressed, he continued to paint Orientalist
themes, though he also explored the symbolist style, society
portraiture, and historical and Biblical themes. In 1907 he
became an Officer of the French Legion of Honour.
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