John Frederick Lewis Biography | Oil Paintings

7-14-1804 London, ENG – 8-15-1876 London, ENG

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Lewis, John Frederick

John Frederick Lewis very careful and loving portrayals of Islamic architecture, furnishings, screens, and costumes set new standards of authenticity, which influenced the works of other French Orientalist painters like Jean-Leon Gerome, especially in his later works. Unlike many other Orientalist painters who took a salacious interest in the women of the Middle East, Lewis he never painted a nude and used his wife as a model for several of his harem scenes.

John Frederick Lewis and Edwin Landseer trained together in the workshop of Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lewis, like Landseer, was an animal painter, and he often included animals throughout his later works, in particular, a pet gazelle he had when he lived in Cairo. In 1826, he published prints of the big cats and twelve domesticated animals and painted two large scenes with animals in Windsor Great Park, now Royal Collection. Lewis toured Europe in 1827, then traveled to Spain and Morocco between 1832 and 1834.

John Frederick Lewis was an early traveler on what was to become a well-trodden route for English artists, though some ten years behind David Wilkie in Spain. David Roberts, who became the other leading British Orientalist, mainly through his lithographs, was in Spain and the Middle East at the same time as Lewis, though the two rarely met, and William James Müller had been in Cairo in 1838.

In 1837 he left for extended travels through Italy and Greece, finally arriving in Constantinople in 1840, from there he continued to Egypt and lived in Cairo between 1841 and 1851 in grand style in a traditional upper-class house that he often used as a setting for his oil paintings.

In Egypt, he made plenty of drawings that he used as a reference for his paintings after his return to England in 1851. In 1850, the painting The Harem was a huge hit when it was exhibited in London.

He continued to paint watercolors for most of the 1850s, but he later turned to painting the similar subjects in oils, which sold for better prices. In the 1860s his standard practice was to paint two variants of the same arrangement, one in oils to exhibit at the Royal Academy, and one in watercolor, trying to get the same price for both.

John Frederick Lewis continued to paint and exhibit almost up to the end of his life. After being largely forgotten for decades, he became extremely fashionable, and expensive, from the 1970s and good works now fetch prices into the millions of dollars at auction. Recently The Arab Scribe Cairo sold at auction for US$2.0 Million and A Memlook Bey Egypt also sold at auction for US$1.6 Million.

Art Movement: Orientalism
Artists Influencing John Frederick Lewis: Thomas Lawrence
He Traveled To Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Greece
Painters John Frederick Lewis Influenced: Jean-Léon Gérôme
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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