David Roberts – il pittore dell’Impero

The colonial experiences did not affect only novel writers. Visual arts took inspiration by the oriental and exotic sceneries that the new countries offered. Among the artists that portrait the cultural multitude of the British empire was David Roberts (1796 –1864), a painter of Scottish origins.
Born at Stockbridge, Edinburgh, son of a shoemaker, Roberts studied art in the evenings while working  as a decorator. His career as a painter and designer of stage scenery started in 1816 when  the Pantheon Theatre in Edinburgh took him on (lo assunse) as a stage designer’s (scenografo) assistant. In 1819, he became the scene painter at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. There Roberts met the Scottish actress Margaret McLachlan: they married in 1820, “for pure love” and had a  daughter, Christine in 1821.
Roberts’s ability and creativity made him go to Londonwhere he got as scenic designer first at the Coburg Theatre, now the Old Vic,  then at the Theatre Royal,

Drury Lane

. Unfortunately in London his wife became an alcoholic (alcolizzata) , and Roberts sent her back to Scotlandto be cared for by friends (essere curata da amici).

In 1824 he started his journey and became commercially successful both for his landscape (paesaggi) and for his work as theatre designer. From 1820 to  1831, Roberts painted English and Scottish scenes, views of well-known buildings in France, in the Low Countries, in Spain and in Tangiers. His sketches (schizzi) were elaborated into attractive and popular paintings. 
Back to London, J.M.W. Turner persuaded him to become a true artist. 
Roberts left for Egypt (1838): he wanted to make drawings (disegni) which would later become paintings and lithographs to sell to the public. And Egypt was much in vogue at that time.  Roberts visited Egypt, Nubia, the Sinai, the Holy Land, Jordanand Lebanona remarkable collection of drawings and watercolour (acquarelli) sketches.

On his return to Britain, Roberts worked with lithographer Louis Haghe from 1842 to 1849 to produce the copiously illustrated plates of the Sketches in the Holy Land and Syria, 1842-1849 and Egypt & Nubia series.
After a journey to Italy (1851, 1853) he published his last volume of illustrations, Italy, Classical, Historical and Picturesque, in 1859. In 1841 he was elected a full member of the RoyalAcademy
Queen Victoria ordered him a picture of the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
During the  last years of his life,  Roberts  started making a series of views (vedute) of London from the Thames, but he finished only   six  as he died suddenly of apoplexy.