“Harem Painting,” a large-scale, 4’X4′ acrylic I completed in April of 2013, has a lot of different narrative, historical, composition and design elements.
The narrative is that the Bedouin prince on the left is about to sneak up and disable the harem guard to retrieve his princess, who was kidnapped by troops of the evil Sultan and forced into the royal harem.
The story is inspired by the pulp novel covers of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, which often included similar melodrama in exotic locales.
The reason I started this painting, however, is that I was inspired by nineteenth century Orientalism in art. Harems were popular subjects among European painters, and each female figure shown in my painting is patterned after a figure shown in a painting in this genre.
I’m proud of the way the different lighting situations act in this piece. The harem is lit in bright orange from the torches and oil lamps, meaning the nothing is visible outside the windows. The unlit hallway is dimly visible by moon and starlight, however. I picked this juxtaposition because of the way orange complements blue — my favorite colors to use when I set up opposing color themes in a painting.
The viewer will also notice the ornate Arabic script and design elements adorning the architecture, tapestry and carpets. I cribbed many of these elements from photos of the Alhambra Moorish palace in Spain, while others I devised myself in the spirit of medieval Arabic design traditions.
Below is my Flickr slideshow showing my process for creating this painting from conception to completion.