1st Edition

French Women Orientalist Artists, 1861–1956 Cross-Cultural Contacts and Depictions of Difference

By Mary Kelly Copyright 2021
    246 Pages 20 Color & 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    246 Pages 20 Color & 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    246 Pages 20 Color & 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is the first full-length study dedicated to French women Orientalist artists.

    Mary Kelly has gathered primary documentation relating to seventy-two women artists whose works of art can be placed in the canon of French Orientalism between 1861 and 1956. Bringing these artists together for the first time and presenting close contextual analyses of works of art, attention is given to artists’ cross-cultural interactions with painted/sculpted representations of the Maghreb particularly in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Using an interdisciplinary ‘open platform of discussion’ approach, Kelly builds on established theory which places emphases on the gendered gaze. This entails a discussion on women’s painted perspectives of and contacts with Muslim women as well as various Maghrebi cultures and land—all the while remaining mindful of the subject position of the French artist and the problematic issues which can arise when discussing European-made ‘ethnographic’ scenes. Kelly argues that French women’s perspectives of the Maghreb differed from the male gaze and were informed by their artistic training and social positions in Europe. In so doing, French women’s socio-cultural modernity is also examined. Moreover, executed between 1861 and 1956, the works of art presented show influences of Modernism; therefore, this book also pays close attention to progressive Realism and Naturalism in art and the Orientalist shift into Modernist subject matter and form. Through this research into French women Orientalists, Kelly engages with important discussions on the crossing view of the historical female other with the cultural other, artistic hybridity and influence in art as well as the postcolonial response to French activities in colonial Algeria and the protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco. On giving focus to women’s art and the impact of cross-cultural interchanges, this book rethinks Orientalism in French art.

    This book will be of particular interest to scholars in the history of art, gender studies, history, and Middle Eastern and North African studies.

    1. Marie Élisabeth Aimée Lucas-Robiquet (1858–1959): Interior Depictions of Maghrebi Weavers  2. Interior Representations of Maghrebi Women  3. Describing the Maghrebi Exterior: Women Orientalists’ Depictions of Life and Landscape  4. Modernism in the Works of French Women Orientalists


    Mary Kelly (née Healy) is a Lecturer in Art History, Theory and Gallery Studies and Director of the MA in Global Gallery Studies at University College Cork, Ireland. She is also a Research Associate at the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, Trinity College Dublin.

    "Mary Kelly’s book, spanning the heyday of nineteenth-century Orientalism into twentieth-century Modernism, is a timely and innovative contribution to orientalist art studies. The importance of Kelly’s highly original work in broadening the canon of French women Orientalists cannot be overstated. She has expanded and redefined the field through this ambitious account of women artists. From now on, it should not be possible to marginalize women’s contribution in any study of French Orientalism." 

    Mary Roberts, Professor of Art History and Nineteenth-Century Studies, University of Sydney and author of Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (2015) and Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature (2007)  

    "For too long, progressive debates on French Orientalism have been driven by the eroticized harem and slave market scenes painted by Western male artists in the nineteenth century. Mary Kelly’s new book, a brilliant and welcome intervention into these debates, highlights the work of dozens of lesser-known French women artists who functioned professionally as Orientalists in the modern era, countering the sexualized stereotype of Muslim women with images that focused instead on their cultural and economic contributions to contemporary life. Through compelling cross-cultural analyses, Kelly poses nuanced questions about the gendered fantasies and realities of Orientalism, and her book reveals the multiple ways in which gender and the female gaze can complicate post-colonialism’s unitary notion of a 'Western' way of seeing the 'Orient.'"

    Norma Broude, Professor Emerita of Art History, American University and author of Gauguin’s Challenge: New Perspectives After Postmodernism (2018) and Impressionism, A Feminist Reading: The Gendering of Art, Science, and Nature in the Nineteenth Century (1991, 1997)

    "Mary Kelly’s book adds rich new materials to the debate about Orientalism in art. Through detailed primary research she enhances our knowledge of the practices of women artists in depicting the Mahgreb – a region spanning Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – and the reception of their works in Paris. French Women Orientalist Artists makes a powerful connection between the depiction of female subjects in the 'East' and the life of those in the 'West.' The artists seen anew here, Kelly persuasively argues, 'painted modernising views of Muslim women which were in keeping with their own female situations as modern women in Europe.' The book contributes a wealth of new biographical data and presents close analyses of hitherto overlooked works. This new material undergirds Mary Kelly’s insistence that gender must be understood as a key variable inflecting subject position of the Orientalist painter. Impressively rich case studies of little-known artists such as Marie Élisabeth Aimée Lucas-Robiquet and Ketty Carré demand a revision of the canon of Orientalist work both before and after the advent of Modernism. More importantly, however, to look closely at this work, as Kelly does, is to revise our conception of modern painting as a whole."

    Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor and Chair of the Department of the History of Art, Yale University, co-editor of Colonialism and the Object, Art and the British Empire and Art and Emancipation in Jamaica (2007); author of Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain and Reading the Pre-Raphaelites (2006)