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Orientalist Painting

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1242
  • Category: Painting

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Orientalism has been defined as the reproduction or the depiction of Eastern cultures into the West. This has been brought up by writers and other persons. An orientalist is the person who engages himself in the activities of orientalism. He may also bee a scholar focusing on orientalist studies. Edward Said, a controversial writer and scholar, puts a twist to this definition and uses the term to describe a tradition (academic and artistic) of hostile and belittling views of the East by the west shaped by the attitudes of the era of European imperialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Two scholars also came up and wrote on the issue of orientalist painting, but both tend to differ with each other, and go further to criticize each other and other scholars these two scholars are Linda Nochlin and Mackenzie, J.M (2002). Linda Nochlin is a professor and art historian and happens also to be among the great persons in feminist art history studies. John Mackenzie is also an honorary professor in the school of molecular and microbial sciences in the University of Queensland. Prakash G (1995).

The emphasis on orientalism as a disparate and a disputed set of discursive constructions, constitutes significant change in how orientation is understood and although its impact has already begun to be felt in history, its effects are still incompletely registered. Linda Nochlin and Mackenzie, J.M (2002), essay “The Imaginary Orient” initially transposed it into the discipline and since then, an earlier model of Edward Said (1978), has become the most dominant archetype for analysis. Nochlin rejected an approach that had safeguarded the principals of art as a domain that is independent from the colonial politics. She went ahead to critically analyze the visual languages of orientalist painting and their affiliation to the proliferation of colonial typecasts. By doing this she recognized many of the important terms by which the art went on to is analyzed. This essay also highlighted the course of elimination and camouflage that adapted and protected the feedback of the Western issue to scrutinize, criticize and let images run riot about Islamic tradition. Nochlin also looked at the cross point of gender politics and orientalism through the processes of protuberance, identification and estrangement in colonial fantasy. Landow, G.P & Said. E.W (1980).

Mackenzie has his own advance towards the topic of Orientalist painting, that it is assembled from several foundations. These include the study of flavor, the market, and some stylistic examination; but there is little of the comprehensive research on certain majestic times which he requests for earlier on in his book, and the way that he chooses picture examples is over and over again more discriminating than the ones for historians whose appraisal is subjected to inquiry. Also, the nonappearance of a wider assortment of illustrational material, predominantly from well-liked culture, photography being our point of order, means that imperative characteristic of the European sexual and gendered neocolonialism are misplaced from the argument. Linda Nochlin and Mackenzie, J.M (2002), suggests that the processes of positive borrowing and representation of European cultures by orientalists, were more often than not performed from a point of high opinion and that apart from wishing to stand for their subjects as substandard, the Orientalists were aggravated by a reminiscence for features of the European ancient times like gallantry which they have now revealed in other cultures. This kind of suggestion has the advantage for imperial defenders of providing an encouraging take on the western cultural allocation outside Europe. Landow, G.P & Said. E.W (1980).

John Mackenzie is a critic writer who has a bone to crack with so many writers of orientalist painting and majorly criticizes Edward Said’s and Linda Nochlin’s work. Mackenzie views Said’s theories on orientalism as being too weighted against the possible favorable meanings of orientalism he instead makes a proposition for a closer review of orientalist articles free from what he calls the Saidian obscure jargon while directing his aggression towards the uncharted and largely nonspecific culled-sac which the orientalists have fallen into. After criticizing Said, he now makes his own contributions to the discussion by bringing out orientalism in art architecture, and several other fields that concern art.

He analyses articles by other articles including Nochlin and suggests his own interpretation of orientalist’s art. At this point the so called followers of Said receive another blow and their scholarship is questioned. Mackenzie particularly criticizes Nochlin for not being an imperial historian. Landow, G.P & Said. E.W (1980). He suggests that this failure, leads her to the lack of specificity in her work. At one point where she brings up a certain odd imperial event, he challenges that the effect is only to append an atmosphere of unauthentic realism. Mackenzie proposes that Nochlin and other cultural historians are not out to identify oriental art as appalling because this would be to crumple the art under review back into the twofold antagonism of qualitative values which their work maneuvers to sabotage. Edward Said (1978).

Scholars such as Nochlin and Edward Said have argued for an interpretation of nineteenth-century emblematic strategies to be integrated within the foundations of colonial philosophies, other art historians have a different opinion of what they regard as a plotting of political dissertation onto artistic demonstration. Instead, scholars such as John Mackenzie maintain that the nineteenth-century artists twisted side to the Orient as a substitute means of visual discovery. The debate continues hooked on to the twentieth-century featuring paintings of the Middle East and North Africa being implemented into the modernist language. The modernist’s work restructures this disconcerting subject matter in a way that bequeaths it with the purportedly unbiased personality of generalization. Centering the meaning of modernist illustration of the orient on official concerns, art historians and artists have the ability to outline their works within a principally detached artistic dialogue. The possibilities of having any political insinuations of the content are masqueraded underneath modernism’s assertion to universalism through form. Linda Nochlin and Mackenzie, J.M (2002).

From the above we can decipher that the only difference that arises between the two scholars is brought up by Mackenzie’s criticism of Nochlin’s and Said’s work. But we also make out something else that; one scholar is taking sides with Said’s work while the other is actually a critic of Said’s work Nochlin, in most of her work has acknowledged Said as her guide and has been greatly inspired by his work. In her essay “The Imaginary Orient” Nochlin builds up her ideas upon Said’s ideas. For instance where she writes about dreams and tries to elaborate further on the poet’s words “In dreams begin responsibilities”. Mackenzie on the other hand writes on imperial history, his area of specialization, to criticize Said’s article, “Orientalism”. He asserts that Said is just critic and a non-specialist in that area of study. That’s how the categorically fall as far as their position towards Edward Said is concerned. Linda Nochlin and Mackenzie, J.M (2002).


Linda Nochlin and Mackenzie, J.M (2002). The Imaginary Orient in Race-ing Art History. Kymberly Pinder ed Now York: Rout ledge. Pp 70-86.

Edward Said (1978). Orientalism: Postcolonial Studies. Media type print (paperback). ISBN 0-394-74067-X

Landow, G.P & Said. E.W (1980). Orientalism: Political Discourse- Theories of Colonialism and Post colonialism.

Prakash G (1995). Orientalism Now: History and Theory, Vol 30, No.4, p 190 

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