John Frederick LewisEdfu, Upper Egypt 1860

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Artwork details

John Frederick Lewis (1805‑1876)
Edfu, Upper Egypt
Date 1860
MediumOil paint on mahogany
Dimensionssupport: 298 x 775 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1894
Not on display


The ancient ruins at Edfu are situated between Luxor and Aswan, in Egypt. It was unusual for Lewis to focus on the topography of Egypt, although the architecture remains subservient to the Bedouin encampment in the foreground. The picture was painted from drawings which Lewis had made while living in Cairo during the 1840s.

The Middle East and North Africa attracted a large number of Victorian artists, in search of exotic subjects. In 1844 the novelist W.M.Thackeray (1811-63) wrote, 'There is a fortune to be made for painters in Cairo, and materials for a whole Academy of them' (quoted in Lambourne, p.102). Lewis moved to Cairo in 1841 and lived there for nine years. He wore Islamic dress and lived in extreme luxury in the Arab quarter. During this period he travelled all over the country and, of all the English artists who painted in the Middle East, he was the most in tune with Egyptian life. At first he painted only in watercolour, and recorded the sun-bleached landscape to great effect… (read more)

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