Exoticism is a provocative term in the world of art history. By its very definition, the word indicates that the work of art it describes is “different” or “other” than what is considered normal.
When trade routes began to open up to the Middle East and Asia during the 16th century, the awareness of the exotic areas of the world that most Westerners had never seen became an enticing idea to many. Exoticism became a 19th and 20th century trend in art and design that stemmed from an over-simplified fantasy of Westerners perceptions. Although Africa, the Middle East and Asia were erroneously considered more primitive at the time, they were simultaneously admired for being quaint and uncorrupted by industrial capitalism. Many Westerners believed that industrialization had made the design and architecture of Europe too utilitarian, and they were drawn to the beauty and aesthetic superiority of non-Western art, culture, and design. They found these “newly discovered” parts of the world quite fascinating. Interest in archaeological findings in Egypt and other areas of the Middle East helped to create a phenomenon that cultural historians now refer to as Egyptomania. The emphasis of geometric designs in Islamic art helped to influence home interiors of the 19th century, and the fine and decorative arts of China and Japan left major impacts on European and American decorative arts throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
While Exoticism can certainly be seen as an important trend in art and design, the trend’s place in the overall history of the time period must also be considered. Exoticism’s popularity was a product of Western exploration, but also of Western imperialism and dominance. The interpretations of these “exotic” cultures in paintings, reproductions of arts and crafts, and performance pieces were frequently manipulated for European audiences for maximum effect and consumption. These manipulated interpretations were often hurtful to these beautiful cultures that Westerners so revered.
UPDATE: Registration is full for July 20, August 3, and August 17. Just a few seats remain for August 31!
Stop by the University Art Galleries this summer with your little one for stories, art making, and FREE parking. We’ll be offering a series of story times for you and your tot, followed by a related art project!
Recommended for ages 3-6. Join us every other Thursday starting June 22nd at 10am!
JUNE 22, 10AM @ FORSYTH GALLERIES
BOOK: The Museum by Susan Verde
Project: Feelings Frames
JULY 6, 10AM @ J. WAYNE STARK GALLERIES
BOOK: Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous Visit With Andy Warhol by James Warhola
PROJECT: Pop Paper Cats
JULY 20, 10AM @ FORSYTH GALLERIES
BOOK: I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! By Karen Beaumont
PROJECT: Mural “Wall”
AUGUST 3, 10AM @ J. WAYNE STARK GALLERIES
BOOK: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
PROJECT: Crayon People
AUGUST 17, 10AM @ FORSYTH GALLERIES
BOOK: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
PROJECT: Purple Galaxy Drawings
AUGUST 31, 10AM @ J. WAYNE STARK GALLERIES
BOOK: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Don’t forget – park for FREE on Thursdays when you visit both galleries in the MSC!