Between 1871 and 1900 this artist exhibited primarily at the Royal Society of British Artists, Birmingham, but also at the top London venues as well. Perhaps bored by the rural scenery in central England, he traveled to more exotic places as Turkey and Algeria to paint. Our own Metropolitan Museum of Art notes that this was the case for many artists, including Rembrandt. However, the rush of artists and poets traveling to “The Orient,” which consisted in the 19th century of Turkey, Greece, the Middle East and North Africa, did not occur until after Napoleon invaded Egypt at the end of the 18th century.
This beautiful watercolor reflects the interest and popularity of the romance of Arabian desert scenes in the 19th century, even before the advent of Lawrence of Arabia. Many of the elements of that interest are exhibited here. The artist put his figures in the dramatic costumes of the era with long white robes and headdresses that show up in contract to the drabness of the desert. The camels are brilliantly silhouetted in the sunset sky. Palm trees are in the background and exotic plants are in the foreground. The emptiness of the desert becomes an integral part of the painting. It is signed on the lower right.
The watercolor is housed in an antique wood and gesso frame. The frame is a wooden one that had been gilded at some point. It was double matted in old gold. The frame is in excellent condition for its age and type.
Overall the condition of the watercolor is excellent; however, there is a small, narrow strip on the bottom that is part of the original painting where it seems that the artist joined the papers together. There is some slight staining to the right edge of the painting on the lower half. The color retention is extraordinary. The double gold mats show some amount of wear. There is some creasing to the first mat on the left side. I have left the matting as it is. All of this, however, adds to its antique character. The richness and drama of the scene outweigh any of these minor faults.
It measures 17-1/4 inches wide and 14 inches high, including the frame.
Late 19th Century Watercolor of Figures and Camels in Desert by Paul H. Ellis
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