Cpt. Robert Hofmann, Austrian Artillery Officer and Artist with the Ottomans in World War I
This article investigates the life, artwork, and experiences of Cpt. Robert Hofmann, an Austrian artillery officer and artist who fought with the Ottomans in the Levant from 1917 to 1919 during World War I and its immediate aftermath. His experiences and artwork provide powerful and vivid insight into the life, times, and situations of war in the Middle East. Unlike those of most of his European compatriots fighting with the Ottomans, his work and perspectives were from a distinctly non-Orientalist perspective as he sketched the flora and fauna, cityscapes, landscapes, and people he encountered while in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the Levant. His attention to detail and captivation by the everyday and mundane without an imperialist or Orientalist gaze begs explanation, particularly since he was a classically trained artist from the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. This article asserts that the combination of his own marginalized identity as an assimilated Jewish soldier, his gifted artistic talent, attention to detail, and his direct and sustained experience in the Middle East enabled him to develop a deep sense of empathy and appreciation for the peoples, places, and environments of the Middle East. This enabled him to transcend the bigotry and dehumanizing views of non-Western peoples so prevalent among his compatriots and European powers of the time.
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