Skip to main content

The Orient Within: Spanish Art and Identity 1833-1956

A research project led by Claudia Hopkins focusing on Spanish artistic representations of al-Andalus and Morocco.

Bertuchi, Gardens of the Escuela de Artes in Tetouan, ca. 1940The forthcoming book The Orient Within: Spanish Art and Identity 1833-1956 (Bloomsbury) examines Spanish attitudes to al-Andalus (Iberian territories under Islam, 711-1492) and Morocco as expressed in Spanish art.

Organized by themes and adopting a chronological order, it begins with Spain’s first significant Orientalist painter in the Romantic period, Genaro Pérez Villaamil, and closes with the state-funded Pintores de Africa exhibitions at the end of Spain’s Protectorate of Morocco (1956). The starting point of this investigation is marked by an increasing Romantic enthusiasm for the Islamic past coupled with groundbreaking advances in Spanish Arabist scholarship, which unsettled earlier prejudices towards Spain’s medieval Muslims. The end point is marked by the institutional use of Orientalist painting promoting the colonial discourse of a "Spanish-Moroccan brotherhood" under Franco. Taken together, the chosen case studies of artists and exhibitions reveal the shifting impulses and possible meanings of Spanish Orientalist art as it emerged and found traction from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

The book challenges over-familiar assumptions about European Orientalism as a discourse that differentiates and excludes Islamic cultures from Western identity. It also promotes an understanding of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish art within the wider the context of European art.

The research has been supported by seed-funding from the Carnegie Trust, Scotland and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (‘Rethinking Orientalism’, 2018-2019).

Image: Claudia Hopkins