The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Friday, September 20, 2019

Watts Gallery opens the first exhibition in more than 40 years to explore the art of John Frederick Lewis
John Frederick Lewis, The Attendant on the Bath, 1854. Oil on panel. Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library, Preston.

GUILDFORD.- John Frederick Lewis: Facing Fame - on view at Watts Gallery – is the first exhibition in more than 40 years to explore the life, art and travels of this leading British Orientalist painter. Including many self-portraits and hidden likenesses, this exhibition explores Lewis’s sustained and complex relationship with his own success over a long and distinguished career.

John Frederick Lewis RWS RA (1804 – 1876) became a leading figure in the British art establishment, famed for his detailed depictions of the Mediterranean and Middle East. John Frederick Lewis: Facing Fame examines the ways in which Lewis’s life and travels informed how he chose to present himself at different points in his career: from the young Regency dandy to the ‘languid Lotus-eater’ living in Cairo; a leader of the London art establishment to an eccentric recluse living in semi-rural Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

A friend and artistic rival of Sir Edwin Landseer, Lewis began his career as an animal and sporting painter. A protégé of the leading portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA FRS, Lewis gained permission to work in Windsor Great Park, the setting for paintings such as Foresters stalking Deer (1826). As Simon Jacques Rochard’s Portrait of John Frederick Lewis (c.1826) conveys, at this point in his early twenties Lewis deliberately strove to present himself as a self-assured, sophisticated artist-gentleman.

Despite his early successes in Britain, Lewis’s artistic focus turned towards Europe. A journey through Germany, Switzerland and northern Italy was followed in 1832 by a tour of Spain - a country that, unlike Italy, had received relatively little attention from British artists in the early nineteenth century. Over nearly two years, Lewis travelled extensively, studying both the Spanish masters in Madrid and the colourful scenes of Catholic ritual in Seville. His studies of the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra, Granada - Casa de Sanchez (1832) and Torre de las Infantas (1833) - convey his developing expertise as a meticulous draughtsman. His Spanish scenes were highly celebrated upon his return to London, earning him the nickname ‘Spanish Lewis’.

After a prolonged stay in Italy, 1838-40, Lewis ventured further afield across Greece and Albania, and on to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and Bursa in Turkey. Studies made during this period, such as The Circassian Girl (1841) and The Turkish Surogee (1840-1), convey his growing artistic interest in the traditional dress and diverse cultures that he encountered.

In 1841, Lewis continued on to Egypt and settled in one of the Coptic quarters of Cairo where he remained, detached from the London art scene, for a decade. Unlike other European artist-travellers, Lewis is unusual in staying in one place for such a prolonged period. He lived in a historic Ottoman house, which would provide the backdrop for many compositions. During this period, Lewis made many detailed studies of the people, architecture and landscapes in Cairo, the Sinai desert and along the Nile.

When Lewis returned to London in 1851, he brought a substantial body of work with him, which would provide a wealth of inspiration for the rest of his career. Bab Sikkat al-Qabwa, Khan al-Khalili, Cairo (c.1843) is one of the many studies that would later be used to inform works produced back in London such as The Bezestein Bazaar of El Khan Khalil, Cairo (1872).

In another depiction of the same market, In the Bezestein Bazaar of El Khan Khalil, Cairo (1860), Lewis situates himself as the central protagonist in the work. Dressed in a blue embroidered jacket and şalvar trousers, Lewis plays with his own self-fashioning in this hidden self-portrait. This image corresponds to the way in which William Makepeace Thackeray, having visited the artist in Cairo in 1844, described Lewis as the ‘languid lotus eater – [living] a dreamy hazy lazy tobaccofied life’. He noted how Lewis ‘adopted himself [..] outwardly to the Oriental life’. John Frederick Lewis: Facing Fame explores how Lewis’s self-fashioning was both influenced by his travels and used to enhance the apparent authenticity of his art.

Despite being absent from the London art world for a decade, on his return Lewis was received with critical acclaim. The exquisitely rendered scenes of Egypt that he went on to exhibit captivated Victorian audiences and fuelled his reputation as one of the foremost nineteenth-century Orientalist artists.

Lewis appeared to thrive in establishment London, becoming president of the Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1855 and a Royal Academician in 1865 submitting The Door of a Café in Cairo (1865) as his diploma work. Charles West Cope’s The Council of the Royal Academy Selecting Pictures for the Exhibition (1875) confirms Lewis’s assimilation into the heart of the establishment.

However, this public role did not sit easily on his shoulders. Distancing himself from the metropolitan centre, Lewis and his wife Marian had relocated to the market town of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, in 1854, where he worked on the colourful and extraordinarily detailed watercolours and oils that made him famous. Ruskin later commented on Lewis’s apparent detachment: ‘There was something un-English about him, which separated him from the good-humoured groups of established fame whose members abetted and jested with each other… He never dined with us, as our other painter friends did’.

This major loan exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity to see important paintings and rarely seen works from public and private collections.

Exhibition Co-Curator, Briony Llewellyn said: “John Frederick Lewis was one of the most enigmatic artists of the Victorian era. His paintings are not quite what they seem, teasing us with their ambiguities. He remained almost silent on his artistic objectives, preferring his legacy to rest on the exquisitely rendered paintings of luxurious Ottoman interiors with opulently dressed women, the bustling Cairo bazaars and the sunlit Bedouin encampments for which he was famed”.

Watts Gallery Trust Director, Alistair Burtenshaw said: “John Frederick Lewis: Facing Fame, the next exhibition in Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village’s renowned exhibition programme, offers visitors the opportunity to explore the complex relationship that John Frederick Lewis had with his own artistic successes, viewed through his biography and the artistic output informed by his travels through Europe and North Africa.”

Today's News

August 19, 2019

A new species of giant penguin has been identified from fossils

Peabody Essex Museum invites visitors to participate in a meditative sculptural installation by Kimsooja

Bonhams to offer an exceptionally rare vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite

Arts Minister stops export of Pre-Raphaelite work

This summer at Storm King artist Mark Dion reimagines the landscape with "Follies"

Toronto Biennial of Art announces 2019 participating artists

Hippies young and old keep the 'real Woodstock' flame alive

Virtual Reality immerses visitors at Norman Rockwell Museum

Corrine Colarusso's "Twilight: paintings on view at Georgia Museum of Art

The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Bordeaux hosts the exhibition Memphis - Plastic Field

Middle East Institute to launch gallery for contemporary Middle Eastern Art

Watts Gallery opens the first exhibition in more than 40 years to explore the art of John Frederick Lewis

New art center to launch at a renovated industrial heritage site on the shores of Tallinn Bay

Sharjah Architecture Triennial announces venues and opening dates for inaugural edition

Jeu de Paume commissions an immersive video installation by Ben Thorp Brown

Rebirth: Kang Muxiang exhibition features six large-scale sculptures

CHART presents an ambitious design programme for 2019

Opera's 'New Callas' charts her life on Instagram

FIAC announces 2019 exhibitor list

Heide Museum of Modern Art opens a solo show of works by George Egerton-Warburton

Unseen Amsterdam announces participating galleries

The Frye Art Museum appoints Michelle Cheng Director of Education & Community Partnerships

OKCMOA names Michael J. Anderson, Ph.D., Interim President & CEO

An expansive exhibition surveys more than 75 artists' books by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt

My top tips for displaying your artwork

How CBD Can Make You a Better Artist

South African Scrap Metal Artists Gives Hope to Troubled Youth

The 10 Coolest Websites for Learners

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Holocaust 'masterpiece' causes uproar at Venice film festival

2.- To be unveiled at Sotheby's: One of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever assembled

3.- Bender Gallery features paintings by up and coming Chicago artist Michael Hedges

4.- Lévy Gorvy exhibits new and historic works by French master in his centenary year

5.- Artificial Intelligence as good as Mahler? Austrian orchestra performs symphony with twist

6.- Fascinating new exhibition explores enduring artistic bond between Scotland and Italy

7.- Exhibition explores the process of Japanese-style woodblock production

8.- Robert Frank, photographer of America's underbelly, dead at 94

9.- The truth behind the legend of patriot Paul Revere revealed in a new exhibition at New-York Historical Society

10.- Hitler bust found in cellar of French Senate

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful