Edwin Lord Weeks


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Painter and illustrator. A leading American orientalist, he specialized in detailed scenes of life in exotic locales, particularly India. He traveled extensively, often under adventurous circumstances, and spent most of his adult life abroad. Born in the Boston suburb of Newtonville, he embarked on a life of travel in 1869 when he visited Florida and South America. He worked in Paris for a year or two with academic realists Jean-Léon Gérôme and Léon Bonnat. On their example, he also traveled to North Africa, the Middle East, and Spain before returning to Newtonville in 1871. Between 1872 and 1878 he seems to have divided his time mostly between Boston and Morocco, and by 1880 he had settled permanently in Paris. In 1882–83 he lived for a year in India, where he returned on subsequent occasions. He also continued to travel elsewhere. An 1892 journey furnished material for From the Black Sea through Persia and India (1896), for which he also provided numerous illustrations. Weeks's characteristic paintings record with romantic flair the daily life he observed in far-flung lands. However, he also constructed historical scenes imagining the past with concrete verisimilitude. His work generally shows a painterly touch, but from the 1880s he sometimes preferred a more literal approach, probably influenced by photography. A large historical work depicting the seventeenth-century ruler Shah Jehan, The Great Mogul and His Court Returning from the Great Mosque at Delhi, India (Portland [Maine] Museum of Art, c. 1886) typically combines historical and ethnographic factualism, brilliant sunlight, and crisp detail.

Subjects: Art.

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