For centuries, the West has been fascinated by the mysterious allure of the Middle East and Asia, captivated by the curious customs, the exotic spices and colors of the bazaars, the romantic atmosphere of the graceful architecture and flowing garments. In the popular imagination, thoughts of the East evoke stories of travel, literature, paintings, decorative arts, fashion and films that have enchanted us for decades. As if viewing the world from a magic flying carpet, through the perspective of Orientalism the nostalgia for vanished civilizations developed into an idealized fantasy.
More than a style, Orientalism is a way of seeing, of perceiving, of sharing emotions and palettes of colors, sensations. Historically, the wealth of the East’s exuberant kaleidoscope of mysteries and perfumes was an antidote to the conservative establishment and ordered rational thinking. Orientalist painters were collectors of dreams, in the way lovers of objects transform their study into a cabinet of curiosities. From Marco Polo’s Book of the Marvels of the World to Byron’s Turkish Tales, from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano, from Delacroix to the British explorer Richard Burton, from Cleopatra to Lawrence of Arabia, Orientalism offers a vision filled with dreams, secrets and poetry, a sensuous tableau perfumed with incense, interweaving past and present.
Following our successful Travel series, Assouline introduces the Style series, spotlighting some of the most iconic art movements and design styles, revealing their historical impact and continuing influence on our culture today.