Born in Molenbeek (Brussels), Pierre Tetar van Elven was the son and pupil of the Dutch painter and print-maker Jean-Baptiste Tetar van Elven. In 1846 he moved to Holland to pursue his studies at the Academy of Art in Amsterdam and the Academy of Drawings in The Hague. After spending a period of time in Paris, he traveled to Italy in 1858 where he lived in Rome and enjoyed some success as a painter at the Court of Victor Emmanuel II.
A View of Jerusalem, seen from the East, with the Temple Mount and the Lion's Gate could be regarded as Tetar van Elven's greatest travel work. His illustration is instinctively familiar, inspiring many pilgrims to visit the sites of Christendom that he portrayed so superbly. The view is from the east looking across the Kidron Valley. The eastern wall of the Temple Mount is visible above the garden, along with the mosques upon it, and the gate to the right is the Lion's Gate, also known as St. Stephen's Gate. The Dome of the Rock appears on the left side. On the lower part of the picture appear people and animals typical of that period and one olive tree symbolizes the Garden of Gethsemene.
By the time Tetar van Elven began to practice topographical painting he had already become popular among European artists and their patrons. The vogue for topography was inspired by Rousseau's call for a return to nature, technical developments in watercolor - the highly portable medium most commonly used by topographical painters - and an increased appreciation for the beauty of the European landscape.
After a diversion into history painting, he followed in the footsteps of David Roberts who painted topographical subjects. By the 1830s, colonization and the expansion of the British Empire had generated an interest in the representation of foreign lands; industrialization brought with it the Romantic need to escape to 'undiscovered' exotic territories.
In A View of Jerusalem, seen from the East, with the Temple Mount and the Lion's Gate, Tetar van Elven combines elements from the three major traditions of landscape paintings commonly employed by topographical painters in Europe: Claude Lorrain's idealized Italianate landscapes; the 17th-Century Dutch interest in rendering the particular and commonplace, including the changing effects of the weather; and Canaletto's crisp, clear sunlit views with large expanses of inactive sky. To these influences Tetar van Elven adds picturesque formulae that betray a preference for a constructed, beautified nature subjected to the laws of art: the recurring motif of a ruin juxtaposed with colorful vegetation in the foreground and figures placed to one side of the composition.
We are grateful to Dr. Shirat-Miriam Shamir for preparing this catalogue note.