St. Jean d'Acre April 25th 1839 / David Roberts, R.A.
David Roberts, a Scottish painter, was born in 1796. His father was a poor shoemaker. From an early age, Roberts displayed a distinct artistic talent. Since age 10 he was apprenticed to a house-painter. In 1816, the young David joined a troupe of traveling pantomimists as a theatrical backdrop painter. Eventually, he got a position as a principal painter at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, following that by employment, in 1820-21, at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh and in 1823, the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Roberts made trips to Europe, sketching monuments and cathedrals with photographic precision. He turned these sketches into his first real “romantic travel” paintings exhibited and sold at ever-increasing prices. In 1830 he was elected president of the Society of British Artists. In 1832-1837 Roberts visited Burgos, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Cordova, Granada, Malaga, Gibraltar, Cadiz and Seville. In 1838 he sailed to Malta, the Greek Cycladian isles, and Egypt. In Cairo, after visiting the Pyramids of Geza, he wrote: “Not much struck with the size of the great one till I began the ascent, which is no joke. The Sphinx pleased me even more than the Pyramids... I cannot express my feelings on seeing these vast monuments.” Roberts left Cairo on 8 February 1839 to begin his trek to Palestine where Roberts drew sketches that would become some of the Holy Land’s most memorable plates. Roberts then went to Petra, that legendary rock-carved city. David Roberts travel lithographs were sketched in 1832-1840 and produced from 1842-49 by London publisher F.G. Moon. Hundreds of prints were made of each drawing from the lithographer’s original stone plate. David Roberts became a member of at least nine societies and academies. Roberts was at work upon a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, when he died suddenly at the age of sixty-eight, in 1864.