Introduction

Thomas Edward Lawrence, born in Tremardoc, Wales, on 16th August 1888, was not only one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial personages in Europe, the USA and the Middle East throughout the 20th century. Revered as a hero until the end of the Second World War, the first inconsistencies emerged during the 1950s.

Based on extensive source material, this exhibition in Oldenburg and Cologne covers the life and achievements of Lawrence of Arabia, from his first encounter with the Orient to his death, and visualizes the process which led to the creation of a myth. However, this exhibition does not intend to confirm this myth, nor indeed, revive it. In addition, the events in the Middle East after the First World War are utilized to make the recent history and the current developments of the region more accessible to a wider audience.

We start with visualizing the reception history, especially printed media and David Lean’s film from the year 1962.The display shows, in chronological order, the stages of Lawrence’s life and his diverse interests. One topic is his liking for archaeology which brought him to join the excavations in Northern Syria. Another topic deals with Lawrence’s activities during the Arab Revolt and his role in the peace negotiations in Paris and Cairo.

The starting point for the making of the myth, the show by the American journalist Lowell Thomas, has been multimedia reconstructed in an abbreviated form. His literary work “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” is investigated from an art historical as well as a literary angle. His last phase, as a soldier, writer, diplomat, and as a man enthusiastic about technological progress, provides the conclusion to the exhibition.

Thomas Edward Lawrence died on May 19th, 1935, at the age of 46 following an accident on his motorcycle.