1847 – 1928
Ancient Doorway

Oil on board, signed & inscribed ‘Constantine 26th April (18)79’
Image size: 12 ¼ x 8 ¼ inches (31 x 21 cm)
Ornate gilt Orientalist frame

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This painting depicts an ancient doorway, which once protected the house. The inner sanctum of the courtyard with its orange tree and a pair of shoes in the doorway, can be glimpsed.

The Artist

Frederick Arthur Bridgman was born in Tuskegee, Alabama in November 1847. After his father’s death, Bridgman’s mother moved the family to the Northeast, eventually settling in Brooklyn. His early talent for draughtsmanship was revealed in 1863 when the artist began an apprenticeship as an engraver at the American Bank Note Company. He simultaneously enrolled in evening art classes at the Brooklyn Art Association. He often painted in the early morning hours, rising at four o’clock. in order to leave enough time for his daily commute to Wall Street.

In 1867 he began studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was placed in the atelier of the acclaimed Orientalist artist Jean-Léon Gérôme. Bridgman was one of only five American students admitted that year. Under Gérôme’s teaching, Bridgman developed a reputation as one of the most important Orientalist artists of the era. On a trip to Spain in 1872, Bridgman experienced the clean air, intense sunlight, and Moorish aesthetics of Spanish architecture. He was also exposed to the sensuous colors of the Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny, who inspired a lightening of Bridgman’s palette and kindled his interest in the exotic lands that lay across the Straights of Gibraltar.

Bridgman’s many visits to North African countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, gave the artist a deep insight into the lives of the people he encountered there. Because he traveled so extensively, his work demonstrates a greater sense of authenticity than that of many of his contemporaries. His ability to render scenes of everyday life with a delicate, color-infused brush solidified his fame as the foremost American Orientalist painter.

He achieved great success at the Paris Salons of 1877, 1878 and 1879 with a group of paintings portraying life in the ancient Near East, including The Funeral of a Mummy, which was purchased by James Gordon Bennett, then owner of The New York Herald. In 1881 Bridgman was elected a member of the National Academy of the United States and in 1889 five of his works were displayed in the Paris International Exposition. He was made an officer of the Légion d’honneur in 1907 and was awarded silver medals at the Expositions Universelles of 1878, 1889 and 1900.

Museum Collections:
Brooklyn Museum, New York, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, National Academy of Design Museum, New York, Newark Museum, Newark, Smithsonian Museum of American Art and Renwick Gallery, Washington, Speed Art Museum, Louisville, State Memorial Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad, Russia and The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.