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"Orientalist Aesthetics"

The winner of the 2004 Robert Motherwell Book Award is Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa 1880 – 1930 (The University of California Press) by Roger Benjamin.

Orientalist Aesthetics, the members of the jury agreed, opens entirely new perspectives on the dimensions of the modernist experience.   The book deals with a number of fascinating issues, ranging from the colonial romanticism of the early nineteenth century to the impressionist Orientalism of Renoir and the Modernist Orientalism of Matisse.  In doing so, the book explores the complex aesthetic relationships between France and North Africa and probes the dynamics of cultural exchange.  Beyond clarifying the role of the exotic in shaping Western modernist visions, Orientalist Aesthetics also introduces us to the art and aspirations of North African artists responding to the challenge of European modernism – thus offering an especially broad view of pictorial culture in the modernist tradition.

Roger Benjamin is Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture and Director of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney.  His previous books include Matisse’s “Notes of a Painter”: Criticism, Theory, and Context (1987) and Orientalism: Delacroix to Klee (1997).

Also cited by the jury for Special Mention was Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture, by Nina Maria Ahtanassoglou-Kallmyer, which was published by the University of Chicago Press.

The Dedalus Foundation was established by the will of Robert Motherwell and is dedicated to fostering the understanding and appreciation of modern art and the traditions of modernism.