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Frederick Arthur Bridgman was an American painter, most famous for his Orientalist compositions, such as Orientalist Interior and The Orange Seller. His artworks depicted mainly the country of Algeria.
Frederick Arthur Bridgman was born in 1847, in Tuskegee, Alabama. He began working as a draughtsman for the American Bank Note Company in New York City. In those years, Bridgeman studied art at the National Academy of Design and the Brooklyn Art Association. In 1866, he went to Paris, and one year later, he entered Jean-Léon Gérôme’s studio, a noted Academic painter. Through that time, he was heavily influenced by Gérôme’s interest in Middle-Eastern themes, as well as his smooth finishing and precise draftsmanship. He was known as “the American Gérôme,” although his style changed as he evolved as an artist, he would later adopt an emphasis on bright colors and a more naturalistic aesthetic.
Between 1872 and 1874, Bridgman made his first visit to North Africa, going between Egypt and Algeria. Through this period, he executed about three hundred sketches, which later became reference material for several numbers of paintings that immediately attracted attention. His extensive and highly celebrated artwork, Funeral of a Mummy, was presented at the Paris Salon in 1877, and later at the Royal Academy of Arts, in 1881. This painting was bought by James Gordon Bennett Jr., which would grant him the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the highest order of merit to receive from the French government. This work was later bought by Wendell Cherry, a famous art collector. Cherry donated the work to the Speed Art Museum, located in Louisville, Kentucky.
His interest in Middle-Eastern culture led him to return to Northern Africa throughout the decades of 1870 and 1880, allowing him to collect a large number of clothes, architectural pieces, and art objects, which would often appear in his paintings. His studio was even noted as overcrowded by the painter John Singer Sargeant. Although he maintained a lifelong and deep connection to France, his was still very popular in the US, much so, in 1890, that he had a solo exhibit of over 400 works in New York’s 5th Avenue Galleries. The show was later moved to Chicago’s Art Institute, but with only 300 pictures, that shows the high number of sales he made through this period.