Alexandra Solovyev is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford in the department of History of Art. Her doctoral thesis focuses on the network of commercial and vernacular visual cultures which formed around the British railways that were constructed in Ottoman Anatolia during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The project explores how artists working for a British audience experienced and represented Ottoman modernity, whilst working largely within the confines of Orientalist pictorial and ideological conventions. The thesis situates these visual cultures within histories of production, circulation, and reception, considering how images differed when produced for a commercial market rather than for private use.
In the mid-nineteenth century, two private British companies – the Ottoman Railway Company (ORC) and the Smyrna Cassaba Railway (SCR) – were granted concessions by the Ottoman government to build railway lines out from the port city of Izmir into the interior of Anatolia. These railway lines were anticipated to bring economic benefits to both the British firms and to the Ottoman state. Beyond these foreseeable economic outcomes, the railways produced a number of second-order socio-cultural effects. The influx of British civil engineers and administrators hired to design and manage the lines expanded the British immigrant community that had historically been based in Izmir. From this community of railway personnel emerged amateur archaeologists, like John Turtle Wood and Hyde Clarke, who documented and excavated the landscape around the railways, as well as patrons who commissioned work from professional artists, including photographer Alexander Svoboda and painter David Hall McKewan. Once the railways were constructed, British tourists began to travel to and through Western Anatolia in larger numbers, recording their experiences in travelogues, guidebooks, photographs, prints, and sketches, in turn facilitating the development of a commercial market for imagery of the region.
Alexandra's broader research interests include British Levantine communities in the Ottoman Empire, Orientalism and Orientalist art, late Ottoman visual culture, and the intersections of art, archaeology, and tourism.
Alexandra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History with a concentration in Philosophy from Columbia University (2018) and an MSt in the History of Art and Visual Culture from the University of Oxford, St Peter's College (2019).