From his early years as an apprentice engraver with the American Bank Note Company, Frederic Arthur Bridgman would quickly transition into a noted artist full of promise. By 1865 he would be on his way to Paris to study under the tutelage of realist painter Jean Leon Gerome. A few years later a trip to Africa would spawn the opening of his true career.
The imagery and themes of what would come to be called the "Orientalist" school was sparked by this early work by Bridgman. Relying on the influence of Gerome, Bridgman had adopted a natural approach to his work, placing an emphasis on color relations and brush work. The scenes he captured during his time spent in both Algeria and Egypt (contained in over three hundred sketches), and the props and materials he collected during his travels (which included everything from clothing and trinkets to architectural remnants) would populate the canvases he painted throughout the rest of his life. He would also rely on the many photographs he would take while on his journeys, which he used in both his historical as well as his contemporary scenes.
In addition to influencing the imagery and subject matter of his work, the African journey and climate would also influence his palette, which now contained lighter colors and a great deal of white on white interaction. He often showed veiled women, or richly adorned scenes, and his developing use of transparent color would begin to distinguish his work.
While remaining based in France, his success in the United States was almost unbelievable. By 1890 he would open a show in New York with over four hundred canvases on display, but by the time the show moved on to Chicago over one hundred of the canvases had all ready been sold. Considering that his paintings were in high demand and the works quite expensive the sale of such a large quantity reveals how popular the Orientalist school had become.
Later in his career he would dabble in the "symbolist" style of painting and then turn to society portraiture, but neither brought him the success or satisfaction of his Orientalist imagery.
He continued to be popular in both France and the United States, and in 1907 he was made an Officer of the French Legion of Honor. In addition to his work as an artist he also published an account of his journeys in Algiers entitled "Winters in Algiers."
His first wife died in 1901, and three years later he remarried. The couple moved from Paris to Normandy in the early 1900s and remained there until Bridgman's death in 1928.