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Biography of Frederick Arthur BridgemanAmerican Orientalist painter
born 1847 - died 1928
Student of: Jean Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
from 1866 to 1870
Frederick Arthur Bridgeman was born
in Alabama, the son of an itinerant doctor
from Massachusetts. his father died when Frederick was
only three years old and, sensing the
north-south tensions prior to the Civil War,
his mother decided
to return with her two sons to Boston in the
north. However they soon moved to New York
where Frederick, already showing artistic
talent, joined the American Banknote Company
as an apprentice engraver. But in spite of
his progress and the
opportunities for rapid promotion, Frederick Arthur Bridgeman preferred to dedicate his time to painting, taking evening
drawing classes first at the Brooklyn Art
Association, then at the National Academy of
Design. It is recounted that he even rose at
4 o'clock every morning to paint before
going to work.
In Paris Frederick Arthur Bridgeman rented an atelier in the
same building as Pearce and another American, E H Blashfield. There he commenced
painting several ambitious reconstructions of antique Egyptian life, seeming to
have forgotten his original ambition of being a landscape artist of the Bretan
or Algerian countryside! The first, The Mummy's Funeral, was exhibited at the
Salon of 1877 and was remarkably successful, becoming an exhibition favourite.
It was engraved, copied and finally bought by the proprietor of the New York
Herald, James Gordon Bennett. his reputation then made, Frederick Arthur
Bridgeman married a young heiress from Boston, Florence Mott Baker.
The peak of his career probably came with the mounting of a personal exhibition displaying over three hundred of Frederick Arthur Bridgeman paintings at the American Art Gallery, the major innovation of this exhibition being the inclusion of a large number of his sketches besides the usual new paintings and prints of older paintings.
Frederick Arthur Bridgeman painting was highly praised not only
for the variety of subjects but also the
fine quality of their execution, their
frankness, fidelity, freshness and beauty.
success, Bridgman was elected a member of
the National Academy of Design.
In 1888 Bridgman published a long fully illustrated account of his stay in Algiers in Harper's Monthly Magazine. It was taken from his larger, more complete publication of the same year entitled Winters in Algiers which also described his previous stays in the city and which was sumptuously illustrated with wood engravings of Frederick Arthur Bridgeman drawings and paintings.
The next decade was a period of uninterrupted success. Frederick Arthur Bridgman was honoured with having five paintings displayed at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. The following year a personal exhibition, similar to that of 1881, of about 400 of his pictures took place at Fifth Avenue Galleries in New York. When it moved on to Chicago it contained less than a hundred of these paintings - evidence of significant sales, enabling him to significantly expand his Parisian home on the Boulevard Malesherbes. Its extravagant decor in classical and oriental style led the artist John Singer Sargent to say that it was one of the two sights worth visiting Paris to see; the other being the Eiffel tower! - Supply American oil paintings by famous artists.
In 1907 Frederick Arthur Bridgeman bacame an Officer of the French Legion of
Honour. However after the First World War,
declined and Frederick Arthur Bridgman moved out of Paris to
Lyons-la-Forêt in Normandy where, although continuing to paint, Frederick Arthur
Bridgeman died in 1928 almost forgotten by his former admiring public.
Along with his fellow-countryman Edwin Lord Weeks, Frederick Arthur Bridgeman is considered to be one of the doyens of the American Orientalist school.
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