(n/a) Frederick Arthur Bridgman (American, 1847-1928)
A Street in Algeria signed and dated 'F.A. Bridgman 1887' (lower left) oil on canvas 91.44 x 68.58cm (36 x 28in).
PROVENANCE: Probably purchased from the artist by the Dodge Family, Detroit, Michigan Mr.and Mrs. Lumm, Toledo, Ohio Thence by descent to the present owner
The son of physician, Frederick Arthur Bridgman was born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1847. He began his career as a draughtsman in New York City for the American Bank Note Company and simultaneously studied art at the Brooklyn Art Association and the National Academy of Design. In 1866 he went to Paris to explore the center 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. After his arrival, Bridgman had quickly made his way to Pont-Aven in Brittany. There he met other American painters such as Robert Wyle, whose well-modeled peasant scenes strongly influenced his style, as in the present lot. Until his first trips to North Africa, Bridgman had planned to return to America as a painter of genre scenes set in the countryside. An influential move, Bridgman joined the atelier of master Orientalist Jean-Léon Gérôme in the autumn of 1866 where he would spend four years, inspired by his teacher's Middle Eastern themes and beautiful techniques of precision. No doubt Gérôme's trips to North Africa in the 1850s encouraged Bridgman to travel abroad.
Bridgman made his first voyage 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. One of his major and most well-known works, The funeral procession of a mummy on the Nile was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1877 and was bought by James Gordon Bennett, the proprietor of the New York Herald. In his book, titled Winters in Algeria, published in 1890, Bridgman both illustrated and wrote about his memorable travels and quite unique experiences. Bridgman was allowed into the homes and harems of the people he encountered 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 vast collection of artifacts he acquired from such trips, including costumes, architectural pieces and art, inspired the celebrated painter, John Singer Sargent, to declare Bridgman's decorated home one of the two places to visit in Paris, the other being the Eiffel Tower. In the present work, the generous wealth of influences Bridgman had to draw from can be seen, from the composition mimicking his sketches of Algerian interiors, to the horse's red bridle found similarly on those in his paintings of Cairo quarters. The heavily swathed rider pays homage to a classic a desert character, while the veiled woman wearing a pearl-lined vest and ornate dress suggests the influences of Ottoman costume.
Perhaps Bridgman's most recognized image, A Street Scene in Algeria, is exceptional for its biographical and historical significance, much like the present lot. Many of its details can be considered his signature motifs, and its subject, a marked record of travel. In keeping with Bridgman's tendency in the 1880s, the present work hones in on the street life in North Africa, gesticulating while they chat.
A noted mark in his esteemed career, Bridgman had five works displayed in the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris, and the following year, a staggering four hundred of his works comprised a solo show at the Fifth Avenue Galleries in New York City. When the show moved to Chicago's Art Institute, it contained only 300 works - testimony to the high number of sales Bridgman had made. The present lot was most likely bought from this show at the Art Institute. Called the 'American Gérôme," Bridgman became an Officer of the French Legion of Honor and was a member of the National Academy of Design. Along with his contemporary, Edwin Lord Weeks, Bridgman is celebrated and regarded as one of the important American orientalists.
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