Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930

Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930


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Written by Holly Edwards

Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures¬†explores complex American attitudes toward the Near East–as revealed in collected paintings, interior design, and multiple vernacular forms–at the formative moment of industrialization and the crystallization of a truly mass culture. This gorgeously illustrated volume first looks at the use of Orientalist stereotypes by some of the country’s most important high art painters of the nineteenth century: Frederic Edwin Church’s treatment of the exotic terrain through a lens of deep religiosity; a more cosmopolitan reading of the harem girl by John Singer Sargent; the perfumed alternative to industrial capitalism conjured in the landscapes and market scenes of Samuel Colman and Louis Comfort Tiffany; and interpretations of the Orient as emancipatory by Ella Pell, the only major woman Orientalist. The book next traces the popularization of Orientalism in the decorative arts (including a few treasures from Olana, Church’s Moorish-style home on the Hudson), on Broadway, and in Hollywood, as well as through advertising that linked consumer products with visual suggestions of exotic sexuality and through cultural objects, such as the Shriners’ fez.

242 pages

Additional information

Weight 2.4 lbs
Dimensions 12.1 x 9 x 0.7 in
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