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Article: How Did Islamic Art Influence Western Art?

How Did Islamic Art Influence Western Art?

The influence of art has been distributed from Eastern Islamic countries to the West for hundreds of years, dating back to the 15th century. Even today, artistic objects and designs in western Europe and America have their roots in ancient Islamic traditions. From ceramics to glass art, photography, and clothing, a wide variety of art, both traditional and contemporary, had made its way across the world from East to West.

The Orientalist Art Movement

Orientalism is the name given to the movement of art whereby visual art coming from Islamic countries influenced the West. The type of art involved included paintwork, decorations, and interior and architectural designs. They mainly originated from Middle Eastern and North African countries, and boast styles and influences from these regions.

Although the Orientalist movement began back in the 15th century, it became most popularized in the West in the 19th century. The main influence then involved oil paintings. But from the beginning, Orientalism has included works of art surrounding metalwork, ceramics, and photography. However, it's also been known for the impact it had on theatre and the performing arts and music in Europe and North America.

Some of the most well-known works from the Orientalist movement come from artists that were European and North American-born. A lot of these artists produced works that related to the area to which they traveled. These included pieces that spoke to the traditions and life of those living in Constantinople (today's Istanbul), Cairo, Jerusalem, and Marrakesh. Those of different professions, from soldiers to traders and artists, were able to make their way to such places with the rise of colonialism in the Middle East.

The Influence of the Ottoman Empire

For years, Europe has compared itself in relation to countries nearby with Eastern traditions. Political dealings and warfare took place between the Europeans and neighboring countries and their empires in the 1500s. These include battles with the Ottoman empire of land that makes up Turkey today, the Safavid Empire of Iran, and other Arabic-speaking nations.

The influence of art had sifted its way from these Islamic countries across Europe, which can be seen with the Iznik plate of the 17th century. These styles of art comprised pottery work with floral designs and also formed patterns within buildings on tilework during Ottoman rule. The works spanned across regions from the 14th right through to the 20th century.

African and Asian Artistic Designs

While Europeans began taking interest in the artistic designs from Africa and Asia in the 15th century, this allowed them to extract beliefs that they tied to their neighbors from these regions. The creation of costume books involved the identification of different groups of society, such as sultans and dancers, being grouped in relation to how they dressed. However, these may have just been assumptions that were based on nothing more than the opinions of the Europeans.

European artists were also able to become influenced by the East from their travels to Middle Eastern cities. This lent to the borrowing of a more exotic style of portraits by European dandies and courtiers. 

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