Frederick Arthur Bridgman (American, 1847-1928) The favorite 49 x 42 3/4in (124.4 x 108.5cm)

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Lot 40
Frederick Arthur Bridgman
(American, 1847-1928)
The favorite 49 x 42 3/4in (124.4 x 108.5cm)

Sold for US$ 365,000 inc. premium
PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF PATRICIA ANAWALT, BRENTWOOD CALIFORNIA
Frederick Arthur Bridgman (American, 1847-1928)
The favorite
signed 'F.A. Bridgman' and dated '1882' (lower left)
oil on canvas
49 x 42 3/4in (124.4 x 108.5cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Mitchell Estate, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
    with Anderson Galleries, Chicago.
    with Jordan Volpe Gallery, New York.
    Mr. and Mrs. Richard Anawalt, Los Angeles (acquired from the above 1979).

    Exhibited
    Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, loan, 1979-1988.
    Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, American Art and the Quest for Unity, 1876-1893, 22 August - 30 October 1983.
    Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Paintings in Southern California Collections: from Gilbert Stuart to Georgia O'Keeffe , 1996, p. 65, exhib. catalogue.

    Literature
    Picturing the Middle East, A Hundred Years of European Orientalism, A Symposium, The Dahesh Museum of Art, New York, November 1995, p. 45, illustrated.

    As a young artist in Paris, the young Bridgman had every intention of returning home quickly and establishing a career as a genre painter. Arriving in France in 1866, he connected with the American artists colony at Pont-Aven in Brittany and showed great interest in the local peasants' life and customs. His first entries at the Salon in 1868-70 were of Breton subject, the last one garnering him acclaim in Paris and New York.

    Bridgman spent four years in Jean-Léon Gérôme's studio, becoming his favorite student and protégé. In the winter of 1872-73, Bridgman and a fellow painter traveled to Spain and North Africa, where they spent several months in Algiers. A subsequent trip took them to Biskra, where the locals' poverty was equally picturesque and disconcerting to the Western travelers. Nevertheless, they found the locals to be extremely courteous, albeit highly unreliable models. From these trips, Bridgman brought back to Paris a great number of paintings, sketches as well as costumes and accessories to be used in his studio as props. An excellent writer, he published an impressive illustrated book, Winters in Algiers, vividly describing his trips through various Algerian villages.

    During the 1880s, Bridgman's popularity was at its peak on both sides of the Atlantic. A show of his paintings from a trip to Egypt was mounted at the American Art Gallery to great acclaim. A new trip to Algiers had been organized due to his wife's failing health. It was on this trip that Bridgman gained access to a local widow's home where he was able to set up his easel on a terrace and observe the daily life of the house and the traffic on the street. He was very sympathetic to the plight of Algerian women and he depicted them most flatteringly while busy with domestic chores or at leisure with their children.

    This intimate access into a local home was highly unusual, as Westerners were typically not allowed into the women's quarters. Harem scenes were often Western constructs based on the Turkish seraglio that did not have a counterpart in Arab life. As Ilene Susan Fort observes: "The harem woman as depicted by the American Frederick A. Bridgman appears to be the Eastern counterpart of the cloistered Western woman: she may wear more elaborate attire and and be surrounded by more ornate decor - which signify her exoticism - but she functions in the same gender role, as a pretty object to be enjoyed by her man and then locked up in a domestic cage when he leaves home to go out into the world." (Femme Fatale or Caring Mother? The Orientalist Woman's Struggle for Dignity, in Picturing the Middle East, Dahesh Museum of Art, New York, 1996).

    In keeping with this Western figment, The favorite is longingly looking towards the open portico, a hookah pipe nearby, lazily passing the hours until her beloved master returns home. Her rich garments and jewelry, the tiger skin at her feet as well as the ivory-encrusted chair, give away her status as a prized possession of the local potentate. The jewel-like rendering of the fabrics, the smooth and careful finish are a true tour de force for Bridgman and an homage to his master Gérôme.

    The Arab subject matter would persist in Bridgman's oeuvre until the end of his life, however, it would be in competition with his archaeological-themed pictures that further consolidated his success. Throughout the 1890s, Bridgman's fame and fortune continued on both sides of the Atlantic, with extensive exhibitions mounted in New York and Chicago, which afforded him a lavish life style and an Eastern-style studio of renowned opulence.

    The Great War proved to be a very difficult time for the artist as sales had dried up and a penchant for gambling forced him to sell the Paris home and move his family to Normandy. He died in 1929 in obscurity and almost poverty.
Contacts
Frederick Arthur Bridgman (American, 1847-1928) The favorite 49 x 42 3/4in (124.4 x 108.5cm)
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