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Edward Lear was one of the greatest travellers (lots 68-70). His statement of intent 'To topographize and to topographize All the Journeyings of my Life' (Letter to Lady Waldegrave, 9 January 1868 in Later Letters of Edward Lear, ed. Lady Constance Stachey, London, 1911, p. 91) could be seen as a goal for a number of artists of the 19th century. Of the traveller artists, some of the most talented were David Roberts, R.A., John Frederick Lewis, R.A. and the Bristol artist William James Müller and their work provides a lens through which we can survey the broader topographical tradition of the 19th century artist.
One can add to this list artists such as William Callow, James Holland and William Wyld whose work we have seen earlier in the catalogue. What this particular group of artists achieved went beyond the known boundaries of travel to date and what they introduced was a new and exotic vision. Until the second half of the 18th century, the main goal for artists travelling abroad was Italy, but in the period 1750-1850 there was an increase in the number of artists travelling further afield. William Pars went on Richard Chandler's expedition to the Near East in 1764-6, and Captain Cook took draughtsmen on each of his expeditions to the South Seas between 1768 and 1780: Sydney Parkinson to record the plants and animals on the first voyage, William Hodges the second and John Webber on the third.
Artists were guaranteed work for some years as a result of these expeditions. Thomas Hearne, previously mentioned as a typical British topographer of the 18th century, accompanied Sir Ralph Payne to the Leeward Islands from 1771-4 and was commissioned to paint finished watercolours on his return. William and Thomas Daniell travelled to India for eight years and on their return published Oriental Scenery in parts between 1795 and 1808. Not only were the prints profitable but the artists were commissioned to execute oil paintings of India, and exhibited them at the Royal Academy. William Alexander accompanied Lord Macartney's expedition to China in 1792 and the artist returned with several sketchbooks of drawings that he proceeded to turn into finished watercolours for the official account of the voyage but also exhibited Chinese landscapes at the Royal Academy and executed commissions on request.
The Napoleonic Wars put an end to these travel expeditions but once they had ended at Waterloo in 1815, the number of artists visiting the continent rapidly grew. Initially it was France and Italy with a number of artists basing themselves in France for a number of years such as Thomas Shotter Boys from 1823-1837 and Callow at various times from 1829 - 1841, while others such as David Cox were happy with just an occasional visit.
Lewis, President of the O.W.S. in 1856 gained his reputation and the name of 'Spanish Lewis' from his watercolours and lithographs produced during his two years in Spain. At the time Spain was little travelled and Lewis and Roberts, who both arrived there in 1832, were some of the first English artists to record the country.
Roberts was unique amongst his fellow Royal Academicians as he ventured into North Africa as early as the 1830s, an adventurous undertaking at the time. His tour of Egypt and the Holy Land enabled him to gather material for his immensely successful series of lithographs published in the 1840s. J.F. Lewis then travelled to Egypt in 1840 and did not return until 1851, having gained a reputation as one of the finest orientalist painters, through the works he had sent back for exhibition. Artists such as J.M.W. Turner relied upon the sketches of amateurs and adventurers when painting for publications such as William Finden's Landscapes of the Bible in 1836, but Roberts with an almost photographic memory recorded first hand the alien architecture and landscape.
Müller visited Greece and Egypt in 1838-1839 and a few years later in 1844 travelled as unofficial draughtsman to Sir Charles Fellows' Lycian expedition to Xanthus in south western Turkey, accompanied by his pupil Harry John Johnson. Müller executed some of his best work in Turkey, but tragically died the following year, at the peak of his career.
By the mid 19th century improved conditions for foreign travel and improvements in printing methods, led to there being many more watercolours of foreign views on the walls of the various exhibiting bodies. This was as a direct response to the enormous demand for the unfamiliar and exotic and by the sheer number of artists travelling to distant parts.