Moonlight, Baghdad.
March 24, 2006 7:12 AM   Subscribe

A Dweller in Mesopotamia. Donald Maxwell was Official Artist to the Admiralty during World War I, and the end of the war found him in what was then called Mesopotamia (now Iraq); he compiled the sketches and paintings he did there into a book which Project Gutenberg has put online. I'm posting it for the frequently beautiful images, but the text is interesting too. He says Baghdad and Basra don't live up to the Westerner's romantic preconceptions ("The first general impression of Basra is that of an unending series of quays along a river not unlike the Thames at Tilbury"), but he also describes age-old scenes that are now gone for good. (Via wood s lot, one of the few sites I visit every day.)
posted by languagehat (9 comments total)
Some of his works remind me of Turner's depictions of Venice.
posted by Jatayu das at 7:51 AM on March 24, 2006

Gutenberg redirecting to default page? Try this. (Thanks, lh!)
posted by steef at 7:53 AM on March 24, 2006

Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom gave a good view of the area too. From what I recall he saw many problems that mirror the religious conflicts of today.
posted by JJ86 at 8:12 AM on March 24, 2006

Just ran across this very nice poster by Maxwell. Wonder why he's not better known? There's almost nothing about him online.
posted by languagehat at 8:13 AM on March 24, 2006

Great Post languagehat.
UK Hydrographic Office has a fascinating collection in its archives. Official artists were sent to sea to render views which were printed at the bottom of charts to aid visual navigation. Some of these artists such as Donald Maxwell
also produced a large body of work unrelated to navigation purposes. However as it is part of the Ministry of Defense, UKHO has a large problem exposing its fascinating collections to public view. It is entrenched in beaurocratic arseholery to the nth degree.
posted by adamvasco at 8:46 AM on March 24, 2006

Mesopotamia is not a white man's country. India would appear to be the direction in which to look for colonists, but it is an unfortunate fact that the Arab does not like the Indian and the Indian does not like the Arab. Sooner or later there would be trouble.

awesome, thanks for the post
posted by matteo at 10:22 AM on March 24, 2006

Excellent post, languagehat. Maxwell's "reporting" is such a far cry from what passes for that today. To imagine that Iraq has at base a "maritime" psyche is quite a revelation. I wonder whether that still exists or whether roads and wheels altered that to something else. Our media have done so little to expose us to the hearts and minds that we are trying to win over.
posted by RMALCOLM at 7:23 PM on March 24, 2006

Thanks very much for this although I had quite a bit of trouble getting hold of it for some unknown but maybe local reason. So I nabbed the images as a gutenburg zip and got the text elsewhere as a pdf. I perhaps should have looked around for another set of images too - reminds me that it's rarely the case where gutenburg post good quality images. I find, as in this case, that they are often a bit pixelated and >100% of their true size, if that makes sense. Nonetheless the quality is definitely discernible. Cheers languagehat.
posted by peacay at 10:22 AM on March 25, 2006

Oh and very much agreed about wood s lot - always interesting.
posted by peacay at 10:24 AM on March 25, 2006

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