Frederick Arthur Bridgman


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Painter. An expatriate living in France, he specialized in scenes of North African and Middle Eastern Arab life. Earning renown in the 1870s and 1880s as the leading American orientalist, he also painted the French countryside and its rustic inhabitants, as well as pure landscapes. Born in Tuskegee, he lived as a child in Alabama and Tennessee before moving to Massachusetts in 1860. Initially trained in New York in the technically demanding profession of banknote engraving, while pursuing this profession he attended classes at the National Academy of Design and elsewhere. After 1866, when he left for Paris, he resided abroad but made occasional visits to the United States. In 1867 he began two years of study with Jean-Léon Gérôme, an academic painter famous for highly finished scenes of oriental life. During the summer of 1866, Bridgman had already visited the village of Pont-Aven, where American artists around Robert Wylie had recently begun to establish an art colony. He continued to return frequently for several years and first gained recognition with images of Breton life. For several months in 1872/73 Bridgman traveled in North Africa, probably the first American artist to visit many of its fabled sites. Soon known as an interpreter of the region, he produced scenes of contemporary life, as well as archeologically informed reconstructions of the past. Among few Americans to venture into the Sahara, then still little touched by colonialism, he returned on several occasions to North Africa and also journeyed through Egypt and the Near East. His tight, polished style, formed under Gérôme's influence, loosened somewhat during the 1880s as he responded to the period's aesthetic interest in outdoor light, which he often subtly recreated to evoke varied times of day. In 1890 Bridgman published Winters in Algeria. During the following decade he began to compose music, some of which was performed publicly after 1900, although by this time his paintings no longer excited much interest. Shortly before World War I, he moved to the picturesque Normandy village of Lyons-la-Forêt, where he again addressed rural subjects. He died in nearby Rouen.

Subjects: Art.

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