Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849–1903),
Indian Barbers, Saharanpore
, ca. 1895
oil on canvas, 56 ¼ x 75 in.; 142.88 x 190.5 cm
Gift of the Friends of Art Collection, 1932.22
Oriental themes gained popularity after Napoleon’s sweep through North Africa in the first decade of the nineteenth century. These newly colonized lands with their fascinating people continued to attract painters for more than fifty years.
In Indian Barbers, set in a city in northwest India, the amusing scene fits the Victorian taste for incidents of everyday life. Weeks’ composition delineates the simple facts while conveying the scene’s exoticism, which is heightened by the dazzling light. Squatting in the sandy market place, these benighted citizens are undergoing slow torture at the hands of their native tonsorial artists, with their dull scissors and duller razors. A glimpse at the faces of the clients will convince anyone that the experience is one not of enjoyment but of endurance.