Two young Algerians signed 'F.A. Bridgman' (lower right) oil on panel 40.5 x 31.5cm (15 15/16 x 12 3/8in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Eric Couturier Paris, 27 June 2002, lot 198 A private collection.
Of the seventy or so American painters who visited the Orient after the Civil War (1861-1865), Edwin Lord Weeks and Frederick Arthur Bridgman stand out for the volume of their work and the number of trips they made. Bridgman particularly distinguished himself in the depiction of daily life in Algeria, which he first visited in 1872.
During his first winter in Algiers, Bridgman began to explore contemporary oriental life, for which he later became renowned. From courtyards to barbers, Bridgman noted all parts of this new life. The following winter, Bridgman travelled to Egypt where he busied himself depicting the streets of Cairo. He painted a few of the major Islamic monuments and some landscapes, but his true interest brought him back to contemporary lives of the Egyptians and Algerians.
True to the Gérôme School of painting, Bridgman painted his oriental sitters with great attention to detail, both in their costumes and in the textiles surrounding them. However, unlike the academics, Bridgman used a loose brush stoke and vibrant colours, sometimes exaggerated, to attract the viewer. In the present lot, Bridgman has posed the woman in the foreground with her back towards us to show the elaborate deign of her vest and to pique the curiosity of his audience. The two women sit in a courtyard playing a lute and a doombeg. It was works like this which were particularly popular with American collectors. In 1881, at the peak of his popularity, Bridgman exhibited over three hundred works at the American Art Gallery in New York.