I grew up in Glasgow when the nearby town of Paisley was still famous as a centre for manufacture of the Paisley Pattern of shawls with the Persian-inspired swirls that became famous the world over in 19th century when Paisley was the weaving capital of Scotland. Still a popular pattern , it is now manufactured elsewhere in the world – probably mostly in China.
In London, Lord Leighton built his house and studio in Kensington, adding the famous Arab Hall in 1877-1879 incorporating his collection of patterned tiles bought in the Middle East while, in the 20th century, exotic Islamic architecture was popular in cinemas and theatres across the country – many of which were even called after the Alhambra.
Over the last few centuries, artistic and cultural influences from the romantic, mysterious and intriguing Middle East have impacted on western art and design, especially as travel to Middle Eastern countries became easier and there were diplomatic exchanges between Europe and the Middle East. You still see in the influence as you wander around local auction houses and antique fairs as people change to a more minimalist style of décor.
The British Museum’s exhibition ‘Inspired by the East’ explored this interaction over the last 500 years, once known as ‘Orientalism’, ending with a 21st century perspective from four female artists from the Middle East presenting different viewpoints on the subject of Muslim female identity.