The Artist-Traveller

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Posted 3rd September 2019

John Frederick Lewis

This blog is about our latest exhibition dedicated to the life and art of the Victorian Orientalist artist John Frederick Lewis.

Lewis was a well-travelled artist, visiting Europe and then settling in Cairo where he created numerous detailed and vivid sketches that conveyed his fascination for the region. This body of work would provide a wealth of inspiration for the rest of his career and caused him to be received with critical acclaim on his return to Britain, despite a decade of absence. Exhibiting an array of Lewis's work from across his career, this exhibition will explore the paradoxical tensions that exist between Lewis's varying personas, from young dandy to 'languid Lotus-eater', leader of the establishment to eccentric recluse.

The Artist-Traveller

Despite his growing success as a sporting artist, in 1827 Lewis set his sights on Europe. He travelled down the river Rhine through Germany, Switzerland and northern Italy to Venice, making vivid watercolour studies along the way. In search of new subjects and experiences Lewis assumed the guise of the bohemian artist-traveller; as a fellow artist recalled, he 'learnt to smoke much and shave little'.

On his return to Britain, Lewis painted the rural landscapes of Scotland and Devon. It was not long before this restless artist sought new terrain, travelling to Spain in 1832.

The exhibition

This is one of a series of blog posts about our exhibition John Frederick Lewis: Facing Fame