Women in Biskra weaving the Burnoose signed 'F.A. Bridgman' (lower left) oil on canvas laid to board 102 x 132cm (40 3/16 x 51 15/16in).
PROVENANCE: A private collection, Midwestern United States Sale, Butterfields Los Angeles, 'American & Californian Paintings & Sculpture', 13 December 2000, lot 3057 A private collection
The son of physician, Frederick Arthur Bridgman was born in Alabama in 1847. He began his career as a draughtsman in New York City for the American Bank Note Company and studied art in the same years at the Brooklyn Art Association and the National Academy of Design. In 1866 he went to Paris to explore the centre of the art world, where he would later settle.
His style and choice of subject matter was no doubt influenced by those painters with whom he became acquainted while in Paris. Bridgman had arrived in France in the summer of 1866 and had quickly made his way to Pont-Aven in Brittany. There he met other American painters such as Robert Wyle, whose well-modelled peasant scenes strongly influenced his style, as in the present lot. Indeed until his first trip to North Africa in the 1870s, Bridgman had planned to return to America as a painter of genre scenes set in the countryside. However in the autumn of 1866, Bridgman joined the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme where he spent four years and was deeply influenced by his master's precision and Middle Eastern themes. Gérôme's trips to North Africa in the 1850s must have encouraged Bridgman to make a trip of his own.
Bridgman made his first trip between 1872 and 1874, dividing his time between Algeria and Egypt. There he executed approximately three hundred sketches, which became the source for several later oil paintings. In his book, titled Winters in Algeria, published in 1890, Bridgman both illustrated and wrote about his memorable travels and experiences with the people in the villages such as in Biskra. Bridgman was allowed into the homes and harems of the people and therefore would have been able to at least sketch the works in situ, rather than create the work from memory like his contemporaries.
The present lot is a scene in the interior of a home in Biskra, where Bridgman observed women weaving a burnoose. Once again, Bridgman shows his penchant for costume, textile and detail and his preference in subject for the everyday life of the villagers. The woman in the doorway watching over her children and the women behind the loom are dressed elaborately and colourfully. Though they are part of a working class, they The children playing with each other as a small goat watches them adds jest and light-heartedness to the otherwise tedious chore of weaving. The light from the doorway illuminates the loom and the soft faces of the women and children. Bridgman's ability to render an otherwise chaotic scene as serene and beautiful is what makes this artist so talented.
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