American, 1847-1928

Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Frederick Arthur Bridgman started out in 1863 as an engraver for the American Banknote Company, simultaneously studying art at the Brooklyn Art Association and the National Academy of Design. He went to Paris in 1866 and became the student of Jean-Léon Gêrome (1824–1904) at the École des Beaux-Arts. He spent time in Brittany at Pont-Aven until 1871, before he traveled to North Africa and Egypt in 1872 and remained there for five years. He participated regularly in the Paris Salons, notably the Salon des Artistes Français and the Salon de la Société Coloniale des Artistes Français. Bridgman exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1878, 1889 and 1900, and received a silver medal at each of the exhibitions. In 1900, he also exhibited four hundred of his works in a solo show at the Fifth Avenue Galleries in New York City. He was made Officier in the Légion d'Honneur in 1907. He became a member of the National Academy, New York, in 1881, and of the Société des Artistes Peintres, Paris.

Bridgman’s travels in North Africa brought about a radical change in his palette, which became much paler. Bridgman was allowed into the homes and harems of the people he encountered and therefore would have been able to at least sketch the works in situ, rather than create contrived works from memory like his peers. Dividing his time between Algeria and Egypt, Bridgman executed approximately three hundred sketches and many photographs, from which he often worked when painting, depicting a world of richly adorned women in veils and using transparent effects and white on white. The vast collection of artifacts he acquired from his travels, including costumes, architectures pieces, and art, decorated his home; in turn, this led John Singer Sargent (1826–1925), one of the artist’s contemporaries, to declare Bridgman’s residence one of the two places to visit in Paris, the other being the Eiffel Tower.

In addition to his scenes of everyday life, Bridgman also painted historical subjects from Ancient Egypt and Assyria, such as Pharaoh Crossing the Red Sea (1900) and The Diversion of an Assyrian King (previously exhibited as A Royal Pastime at Ninevah (c. 1878). A cultivated man, Bridgman studied musical composition with Charles-Marie Widor and wrote several books on art. In New York in 1890, he published Winters in Algiers, which he illustrated with his paintings.

Museum Collections:
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Academy of Design Museum, New York, NY
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Smithsonian Museum of American Art and Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
State Memorial Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad (Gosudarstvennyj Russkij Muz.), St. Petersburg
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

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