CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


The Orientalist Sublime: Landscape, Self, and Spectator in the Work of Gérôme and his Contemporaries

Session 11 Landscape and Spectacle

Williams College and the Clark Art Institute


This paper explores the dynamics of viewer experience in European representations of North Africa and the Middle East in the 19th century, particular in the work of Jean-Léon Gérôme and his contemporaries, including Eugène Fromentin and Gustave Guillaumet, as well as lesser-known artists. In contrast to prevailing approaches to the work of Gérôme and other “painter-travelers” from this era, emphasis in this paper does not fall on the colonial and ideological work put in place by Orientalist landscape painting, a reading already well-developed in established scholarship. Rather, this paper examines Orientalist landscape painting along the axis of the sublime, a broadly psychological account of aesthetic experience keyed to effects of incommensurability, transcendence, and sensorial overload. If the effects are “sublime,” this is not a paper about art theory, however. Only in passing does it call on specific historical or theoretical iterations of an aesthetic doctrine that has emerged as a renewed source of interest in the visual arts. Rather, through close reading of several key works by Gérôme and other painters, the paper explores the unique pictorial strategies 


Marc Gotlieb is Class of 1955 Memorial Professor of Art at Williams College and Director of the Graduate Program in Art History at Williams College and the Clark Art Institute. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1990.  He is the author of The Plight of Emulation: Ernest Meissonier and French Salon Painting. He is also past Editor-in-chief of the Art Bulletin. His book, The Deaths of Henri Regnault was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2016. His teaching encompasses Romanticism, Orientalism, “academic” art, and the history of art instruction. He also serves as president of the US National Committee for the History of Art.