Arthur Frederick Bridgeman Biography
Frederick Arthur Bridgman was born in Alabama, USA. When Frederick was only three years old his father, a doctor, died. Bridgeman's mother sensing the north-south tensions prior to the Civil War, decided to return with her two sons to Boston in the north. However soon afterwards they moved to New York where Frederick Bridgeman, who was already showing artistic talent, joined the American Banknote Company as an apprentice engraver. In 1865 and again in 1866 Bridgeman exhibited paintings at the Brooklyn Art Association. Encouraged by his success, with the sponsorship of a group of Brooklyn businessmen, Bridgeman set out for Paris. Bridgeman ended up in Pont-Avent, in Brittany which was home to an American artist colony under the leadership of Robert Wylie.
In the Autumn of 1866 Bridgeman joined the atelier of Jean-Leon Gerome in Paris, where he studied for 4 years, spending the summers back at Pont-Avent with Wylie. Bridgeman was soon succesful, exhibiting his paintings in the many salons in Paris, and selling to the dealer Goupil, Gerome”s father-in-law.
Bridgeman spent the winter of 1872-3 in Spain and North Africa starting in Tangiers then on to to Algeria. Bridgeman sampled the local nightlife and spent afternoons exploring the surrounding villages and oases on horseback. Here Bridgeman found the local colour he was looking for. Crowds in the markets, belly-dancers and everyday life.
Bridgeman spent his time between Paris and Algeria, returning to Algiers during the winter of 1885-6 becuase of his wifes ailing health. The next ten years was a period of uninterrupted success. In 1890 a personal exhibition, similar to that of 1881, of about 400 of his paintings took place at Fifth Avenue Galleries in New York. It was very succesful.
Bridgeman continued to paint even more exotic North African scene paintings. However, feeling a need for new subject matter, Bridgeman later made an attempt at a symbolist style, even turning to society portraiture, and then, in the 1890”s, returning to historical and biblical themes just like his mentor Gerome. But non of these later Bridgeman paintings were as successful as his Orientalist compositions of the previous decade.
In 1901 Bridgman”s wife, Florence died. Three years after this he married again. In 1907 he became an Officer of the French Legion of Honour. However after the First World War, Bridgeman's popularity declined and he moved away from Paris to Lyons-la-Foret in Normandy where, although he continued to paint, he died in 1928 almost forgotten by his former admiring public. Frederick Arthur Bridgman is considered to be one of the doyens of the American Orientalist school.