(1796 - 1864)
David Roberts was active/lived in United Kingdom, England, Scotland. David Roberts is known for painting-scenes of Egypt, Holy Land, and Africa.
Biography from the Archives of askART
A painter whose reputation was made by the paintings he did of exotic
lands, David Roberts was born and raised in Stockbridge, near
Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, John Roberts, was an
impoverished shoemaker, who, with his wife Christine, tried to support
five children in a small house on Duncan's Land by the Water of
Leith. The house remains standing in the 21st century. Only
two of the children lived to maturity.
Biography from Psatharis Auctions
Roberts' mother encouraged his obvious art talent, and allowed him to
sketch in charcoal on the white washed walls of the house. At the
age ot twelve, he apprenticed for a summer to Gavin Beugo, a decorator
from Edinburgh, and this training, demanding fifteen hours a day, was
very helpful to the future artist. From Beugo, he learned
interior decorating techniques of marbling and graining wood, trompe
l'oeil panneling, and techniques for painting large areas very
quickly. At the end of the summer, Roberts was offered a job
painting scenery for a circus, and accepting this offer set the course
for the next part of his life.
He spent 15 years doing theatre set designs throughout Great
Britain, often working with Clarkson Stanfield. This
collaboration was so successful that within a few years they were much
sought after and could name their terms financially. However,
much stress was associated with the work including the alcoholism of
his wife who suffered from loneliness and had to be sent back to
Scotland, and the destruction of some of his sets by a jealous
By 1830, Roberts had abandoned the theatre and moved to London with a
determination to become an easel painter. Much of the
distinguished reputation he subsequently achieved was linked to the
visual images he
created from his extensive travels.
In 1832, he traveled to Spain, Morocco, Tangiers and Tetuan in
Africa, and the eager response to his paintings from those travels made
it clear to him that the public wanted images of 'exotic' places.
For the next five years, he read extensively to prepare
for a much longer trip, this one to the Holy Land and Egypt, and he had
enough sales from his oil and watercolor paintings and from book
illustrations to depart in August 1838 when he was age 42.
He traveled to Marseilles and then to Alexandria through Malta and
Greece, arriving on September 24th. The British counsul
facilitated his visit in Alexandria, and Roberts had access to a boat,
a crew of eight men and a servant. He went to Cairo, saw the
pyramids and the sphinx and then traveled the Nile River, doing much
drawing and journal writing and also experiencing many adventures
including raging illness, bandits, and much vermin. (His
daughter, Christine, finding remnants of
the journal, transcribed and published them many years later.)
Returning to England, Roberts worked with lithographer Louis Haghe, and
the result was a six-volume set with 248 hand colored
lithographs. The publication was described as "the most ambitious
work ever published in England with lithographed plates." (Petra) Egypt
and Nubia were the subjects of the first three volumes, and the last
three volumes were devoted to the Holy Land. Sold by subscription
in monthly installments, the volumes brought him great professional
distinction and were groundbreaking in that they showed living people
in contemporary circumstances on 'ancient', revered soil. He had
found much of the poverty shocking but was much inspired by their
Settling back into life in London in 1839, he was admitted to the Royal
Academy and exhibited there for the next 30 years. He established
a studio at 7 Fitzroy Street, and remained based there, while
continuing to travel including many trips back to Scotland.
In London, he was a popular figure with a very active social
life. He saw much of his daughter, Christine, and her large
family, was a member of the Garrick Club, and was close friends with
prominent persons such as Dickens, Thackeray and Landseer. One of
his painting projects towards the end of his life was a series of the
Thames River. On November 25, 1864, while working one one of
these paintings, St. Paul's from Ludgate Hill, he collapsed and died a few hours later that day.
Museums with work by David Roberts include the Fine Arts Museums of San
Francisco, National Galleries of Scotland, National Gallery of Canada,
Denver Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Courtauld Institute
http://www.petrafineart.net/davidr.html (Petra Fine Art)
David Roberts was born is Scotland in 1796. After moving to London, he achieved a respectable reputation as an artist prior to 1838 when he traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land to paint the monuments, architecture and people. Upon his return to England, his works were published (in conjunction with the lithographer Louis Haghe) in a six volume set, in which all 248 lithographs were hand colored. The first three volumes depicted Egypt and Nubia; the second three, the Holy Land. The set, which was sold by subscription, was an immediate success. Roberts was admitted to the Royal Academy and he continued to travel and paint until his death in 1864. After more than 150 years his paintings are still the most beloved and popular illustrations of Egypt and are highly sought after by collectors.
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
Share an image of the Artist firstname.lastname@example.org.