After a brief career as a housepainter in Perth, David Roberts began work in 1816 as a scenery painter with Mr Bannister’s Touring Circus and Theatrical Company. In 1824 Robert’s paintings were exhibited for the first time at the British Institution in London. That same year, the artist helped to found the Society of British Artists and began travelling throughout Europe. Roberts created numerous drawings during a trip to Spain, a little known country in Britain, at the very beginning of his career which were later published but it was Robert’s visit to the Near East in 1838-9 that became “the great central episode of his artistic life”, establishing Roberts as one of the most celebrated artists of his day.
Between 1842 and 1849 Louis Haghe executed no less than 247 lithographs after Robert’s drawings. These were issued in monthly instalments and bound into volumes under the unwieldy title, The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia. The work was a great success. Associations with a biblical past appealed to the Victorian imagination as did Egyptian archaeology. Since Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, the tombs and temples along the Nile had been the focus of intense European fascination and Roberts was determined to use his own artistic talents to surpass earlier works on the subject.
In order to create a true impression of the visual and emotional impact of the scenes witnessed, Roberts often forsook topographical accuracy in favour of dramatic pictorial effect. The first professional English artist to visit Egypt independently of a patron or expedition, Roberts set a standard for topographical illustration that remains unchallenged to this day.
Below are a few examples from this collection. Please click on an image to see it in high-resolution with details of the work itself. For the full list of original antique Roberts lithographs available, please do contact us.