The 19th century is characterised as an era of exchanges and rediscoveries – between Europe and the Arab and Ottoman world – affected by travel, trade, military expeditions and technological advances. These factors, which had an effect on the production of both the fine and applied arts and also encouraged collecting practices, combined with an increasing scholarly interest in the past.

One characteristic development of the period is Orientalism, which is a cultural and historical movement that emerges, especially from the mid-19th century until the 1920s. European interests in the Near and Middle East, North Africa and southern Europe began in the 18th century with the popularisation of the Grand Tour, a time when curious, affluent travellers were driven by a search for antiquities and lost civilisations. At the turn of the century, military expeditions such as the French Army of Napoleon were brought alongside Western travellers who had begun to study a world different to their own and bring to light another culture and way of life. Europeans, often driven by trading opportunities, became more and more interested in travelling to explore new places and cultures in the Arab and Ottoman world.

Visions of a different world were described through images of the “Orient” – either seen or imaginary – in painting, and also a revival of styles from the past in the applied arts. Interactions between both worlds inspired all fields of art: architecture, interior decoration and fashion as well as the fine and applied arts. In turn, the East was influenced by the presence of Westerners in the region, which resulted in traditional Islamic art taking on new forms and techniques and artists, architects and craftsmen following the contemporary artistic trends of Europe. Finally, an important source of inspiration for artists and designers was the use of new technologies, such as albumins and photographs.

Al Azhar University, Cairo


Sharjah Art Museum / Sharjah Museums Department, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (Sharjah)

Ludwig Deutsch

Oil on canvas

See Database entry for this item


In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Encountering the East
Encountering the West
The concept of revivals