John Davis to Speak on Frederic Church July 18

For Immediate Release

July 07, 2000

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA (July 7, 2000) - A series of lectures related to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's current exhibition Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930 will continue on Tuesday, July 18, at 4:00 p.m. John Davis, the Priscilla Paine Van der Poel Professor of Art History at Smith College in Northampton, will give the talk "The Orientalist Bible: Frederic Church and the American Protestant Fascination with the Middle East." Admission is free.

Davis's topic will be landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church, whose 1870 painting Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives is featured in Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures. Church held deep Protestant convictions and approached his visit to the Orient with devout beliefs. Like many American artists, Church saw the Middle East as the Holy Land, the site of Biblical stories. He designed a key to be exhibited with his painting of Jerusalem which directed the viewer to major religious monuments illustrated in the picture, inviting the viewer to "walk in the footsteps of Jesus."

Davis is the author of The Landscape of Belief: Encountering the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century, American Art and Culture, and coauthor of Nineteenth-Century American Paintings: Collections of the National Gallery of Art, Systematic Catalogue. His current research interests include artists' studios, the painting of Eastman Johnson, Catholic imagery in the Antebellum Era, and American concepts of gender and space. The final talk in the American Orientalism series will be Tuesday, July 25, at 4:00 p.m., when Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and American Studies at Wesleyan University, will speak. Her topic will be "Sheiks and Harems: Valentino and Escapism in the 1920s."

Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures traces America's fascination with an imagined, exotic Middle East. Beginning with paintings by Frederic Edwin Church and John Singer Sargent and extending to its widespread dissemination in popular culture, including films such as Rudolph Valentino's The Sheik, over one hundred objects illustrate the associations conjured up by the Holy Land, Egypt, and North Africa in the popular imagination of turn of the century America. Organized by the Clark Art Institute, Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures will be on view at the Clark through September 4, then travel to the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland, October 3, 2000, to December 10, 2000, and to the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, February 3, 2001 to April 22, 2001.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit

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