The Dissemination of the Orientalist Praxis in the Belgian Artistic Circles (1830-1914)

2012 > 2016

Promotor(s) : Pr Dr Michel Draguet

Researcher(s) : Davy Depelchin


  • Pr Dr Marjan Sterckx (Ghent University)

Scientific Committee:

  • Pr Dr Michel Draguet (Managing Director of the Museums; Professor at the ULB)
  • Pr Dr Marjan Sterckx (Ghent University)
  • Pr Dr Linda Van Santvoort (Ghent University)
  • Pr Dr Jo Tollebeek (KU Leuven)


Since post-colonial critics (Said et al) expressed their opinions on orientalism in the '60s and '70s of the last century, much attention has been devoted to this theme, and especially to the theoretical discourse concealed behind it. Against this background, this study focuses on the Belgian part of the prominent orientalist movement in  European fine arts. The arts played here a dual role. On the one hand orientalist works of art presented themselves as a product of prevailing conceptions –exotic fantasies, escapist desires, ethnographic findings or political-mercantile ambitions –on the other hand they themselves formed building blocks for the image of the Orient. For the period 1830-1914, Belgium as an entity is a very interesting object of study given the absence –or at the very least more latent presence –of political or mercantile interests in the reference area. Its special value lies also in the international profile of the young, competitive nation and its permeability to ideas pouring in via the neighbouring great powers. Partly due to its central location in Western Europe, the liberal bourgeois state held from 1830 onwards a paradigmatic position in the contemporary world. This study aims to identify the figures responsible for the introduction, dissemination and interpretation of the orientalist theme in Belgian artistic circles. How did they position themselves in relation to their students, their colleagues and their audience? And how did the transfer of image and significance interrelate? 

This research project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Ghent University. The written outcome of this research will be presented as a doctoral thesis.