To celebrate our 250th birthday this year, we’re highlighting 250 beautiful, odd and inspiring objects from the RA Collection across 25 themes. In this edition, we’re setting forth across the seven seas to discover works by artists who voyaged across the globe, drawing what they saw.
John Frederick Lewis lived in Cairo between 1841 and 1851, but continued painting Egypt long after he’d returned to England. Many of his best-known works relate back to his time abroad; this crowded café scene is based on a portrait he’d painted in the Sinai desert in 1842.
William Hodges was the first professional British landscape painter to visit India. While touring the country from 1780-1783, he accompanied Governor General Warren Hastings to the ancient city of Benares, now known as Varanasi. This painting depicts some of the famous “ghats” or steps on the banks of the River Ganges. Hodges sketched them in India, before painting this back in England.
A holiday on the Caribbean island of Grenada during the 1980s inspired Allen Jones to make this large monotype. According to curator Bryan Robertson, Jones' paintings from this time reflect his experience of evening hotel entertainment and awareness of the locals observing it from a distance.
Dod Procter travelled widely in her later life, visiting Jamaica four times between 1953 and 1961. On these trips she painted many portraits of local children, including this one, which is possibly a portrait of a girl named Pearl who often sat for Procter. The artist's travels also included a year in Myanmar, where she painted murals in Rangoon with her husband Ernest Procter.
The print of the Coney Island amusement park was made by Edwin La Dell following a trip to New York in 1967-8. It forms part of his final series of 12 prints, often described as his finest work. Fellow printmaker Chris Orr RA has observed that the prints demonstrate “a wonderful sense of renewal”, showing how the experience of a new environment can radically renew an artist's work.
As a teenager William Daniell travelled to India with his artist uncle Thomas, spending seven years there as Thomas' assistant. Back in London, Daniell developed his sketches into a series of prints and oil paintings including this view of Hindu temples in the city of Bindrabund, now Vrindaban, in northern India
Julian Trevelyan spent time in Egypt and Nigeria as part of his work for the Industrial Camouflage Research Unit during World War II. He returned to Africa in 1966 as external examiner to a college in Uganda, and his travels during this time inspired the ‘Africa Suite’, 1966-7, which includes this take on the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
David Roberts was the first independent British artist to travel and paint extensively in the Near East. His evocative portrayals of ancient monuments and vast desert landscapes brought the topography of Egypt and the Holy Land to an appreciative European audience. This painting depicts the Great Temple of Baalbec in Lebanon, which Roberts visited in 1839.
Eric Kennington travelled to the Middle East in 1921 to produce pastel portraits of people who featured in T.E. Lawrence's (Lawrence of Arabia) memoir ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’. Kennington was commissioned by Lawrence to illustrate to the memoir. This is a portrait of Abd el Rahman, described in the book as “a runaway slave from Riadh, now freedman of Mohammed el Dheilan, the Toweih”.
John Webber travelled to Tahiti in 1777 in the role of draughtsman on Captain Cook's third voyage. After returning to England, Webber used the sketches he'd made as a basis for paintings like this, showing a view from Vaitepiha Bay looking towards the Tautira Valley. It would have been one of the first views of the island available to the British public.