William James Muller, the Bristol painter, died prematurely aged 33 from heart disease, caused by poisoning from the white lead in his oil paints. To the end he continued to work: 'It is curious I have lost no vigour, no colour, can now [paint] easily as ever, and yet at times can hardly write a line'. He is best known for his watercolours of France, Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey where, in late 1843, he travelled through the Xanthus Valley. Despite the sometimes treacherous conditions, his expedition resulted in some of the finest travel records of any artist of the 1840s including lots 79, 80 and 81.
Muller drew and painted in the open air, refusing to re-work any picture in the studio. He relished the use of a broad, wet brush, maintaining superb control of the medium. In his short career, he worked compulsively, once describing paint as 'oozing out of my fingers'.
The entrance to the small temple at Medinet Habu, Luxor, Egypt (recto); and with subsidiary sketches (verso)