Watkins and the zeitgeist

Two items for sale on ebay this week capture a social and artistic vogue of the 1920s. It’s the convergence of French and Hollywood Orientalism — Delacroix, Gerome and Ingres meet DeMille, Valentino and Theda Bara.

WR Watkins deco maidenAlbert Arthur Allen harem series

This painting by WR Watkins (c.1920s) and this photograph by Albert Arthur Allen (1929) each invoke the era’s erotic/exotic zeitgeist.

The roaring twenties’ cultural fascination with the archetypes of Sheik and Vamp, as well as the historical figures of Cleopatra and Salome, which extended from Hollywood to the Ballet Russes (Najinski/Scheherazade) were a convenient way of simultaneously displacing and embracing the disruptive sexual freedoms of the decade. WR Watkins was no doubt also referencing the flesh-vs-flat-pattern sexual/visual anxieties of Gustav Klimt.

Posted Saturday, April 18th, 2009 under WR Watkins, history, influences.

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