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Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

Benjamin-Constant’s (1845–1902) early trips to Morocco and Granada highly inspired his own Orientalist work, as part of the 19th century European movement of studying and depicting the world of the East through western eyes. Common themes were of harems, violence, and Oriental patterned landscapes, which would have appealed to European taste for the exotic. Benjamin-Constant painted in his Romantic tradition, creating classical scenes which were rendered realistic though highly staged.

His paintings give insight to the European fantasies of his time, reflecting a moment in history when Western ideas about the Muslim East was mostly fantasy. Benjamin-Constant’s scenes were all created in his Paris studio, crowded with props from his trips, and ultimately set Western subjects (such as the stylized female nude) injected into elaborate staged scenes. More recent discourse views this period of Orientalism as an extension of cultural colonialism, in which the West, as the dominant culture, would impose its views on the East.