i Auguste Renoir, Odalisque, 1870, detail, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington

13 – Fantasies Reframed: Orientalism and its Contexts

On campus

Course 13 – Summer School on campus

Monday 19 – Friday 23 June 2023
Dr Emily Christensen and Dr Ambra D’Antone

Booking for this course has now closed. 

You may also be interested in course 18 – Power, Politics and Architecture: Palaces and Gardens in Mughal South Asia or course 27 – The Art of the Sultans: Ottoman Art and Architecture.

Course description

Orientalist paintings are complex works with a contentious history: a popular genre in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe, they have been variously described as historically significant snapshots of life in ‘the Orient’ and as ideologically constructed fantasies created in the minds and studios of the European artists who painted them. Recent exhibitions, and the growing private and public collections of Orientalism throughout the Islamic world, demonstrate that these works continue to find new audiences. This course is designed to explore Orientalism in its artistic, political and historical contexts and to provide participants with a framework through which to approach and interpret these works. We shall identify and scrutinise recurring motifs (horsemen, harems, odalisques, palm trees, alleyways, arches) and common themes (idleness, sensuality, violence) in the works of Orientalism’s most renowned artists, including Delacroix, Gérôme, Deutsch and Lewis, and in early photography and popular culture. We shall trace Orientalism’s shifting forms and renewed purpose in early modernism, in the works of Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Kandinsky. Throughout the course we shall also discuss how artists and intellectuals from Turkey and the Levant region responded to Orientalism in painting, expanding notions of the cultural flows that existed between Europe and the lands it referred to as the Orient.

Lecturers' biographies

Dr Emily Christensen is an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld. Emily teaches European nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, and on issues of empire and representation in Orientalism. Her PhD research explored the role of ‘the Orient’ in the development of Wassily Kandinsky’s artistic strategies as he experimented with abstraction. Current projects include collaborating on an exhibition about the reception of Islamic art in twentieth-century Europe at the Kunsthaus Zurich and co-curating a forthcoming exhibition in The Courtauld Gallery Project Space. She has published in The Burlington Magazine, Aesthetica Universalis and Manazir, and is the guest co-editor of a forthcoming special issue on Orientalism in World Art. Emily has recently collaborated on the exhibition Re-Orientations: Europe and Islamic Art, from 1851 to Today (open until 16 July 2023) at the Kunsthaus in Zürich.

Dr Ambra D’Antone is a historian of modern art and historiography. She is a Research Associate of the Bilderfahrzeuge International Research Project, based at The Warburg Institute in London, and an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld. She recently completed a PhD with The Courtauld and Tate, with a thesis titled ‘Translating Modernity: Surrealism of the Levant’.