(Stockbridge, 1796 – London, 1864)
The chapel of Saint Beat – France
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right
Countersigned, located and dated on the reverse
36 x 30 cm
David Roberts was born in Stockbridge, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, on October 24, 1796. The son of a shoemaker, Roberts showed particular artistic talent from an early age. On the advice of the headmaster of the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh, he became an apprentice to a house painter at the age of ten. In 1816, at the age of just twenty, young David Roberts joined a traveling pantomime troupe as a theatrical scenery painter, much to the dismay of both his parents. This will be particularly useful to him later because he thus learned to paint quickly but with precision. After the disappearance of the traveling group, David Roberts divides his time between painting theater sets and decorating houses, his first training. With hopes for a better future in mind, he also spent his evenings painting in oils, honing and blending his various skills and techniques. Eventually he landed a job as principal painter at the Theater Royal in Glasgow, followed by a job, in 1820-1821, at the Theater Royal in Edinburgh. In 1823, aged 26, he settled permanently in London where he worked for the Drury Lane Theater.
The year 1824 was an important year in the life of David Roberts. He became a founding member of the brand-new Society of British Artists but above all, he made his first trip to France, drawing many monuments and cathedrals with great precision, almost photographic. On his return, he made these sketches his first real paintings of "romantic travel", then in vogue, which he exhibited at the British Institution, a very coveted gallery.
In 1827 the newly founded Royal Scottish Academy exhibited his paintings and in 1830 he was elected President of the Society of British Artists. Saving his money (and on the advice of friend and fellow Scottish artist David Wilkie), Roberts left for Spain in 1832. Even before his trip, and certainly after, Roberts had established a reputation as an important architectural artist. The trip took him not only to Spain, but also to Portugal and Morocco. The following year Roberts was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, the usual step before being accepted as a full member.
Roberts was now planning the event that would change his life forever: a long trip to Egypt, Syria and Palestine. Infatuation with the Orient aside, Roberts was also mischievous: he knew that the fame and fortune to which he aspired could be greatly aided by the publication of a series of sketches of Egypt and the Near East, prompting at the time a huge attraction for the British. In August 1838, he therefore left London for a long journey. He brought back a multitude of drawings and watercolors of the various sites visited. Returning to London in July 1839, he showed his original works which had great success. The Royal Academy then welcomed him as a full member on February 10, 1841. From this trip to the Middle East, Roberts drew the work for which he is still recognized today: The Holy Land, Syria, Petra, Arabia , Egypt and Nubia. The collection of 247 lithographs was published in six volumes in London between 1842 and 1849 and assured him posterity.
Continuing to paint and therefore to travel, he visited Italy in 1851 and 1853. This was the subject of his last publication of illustrations which was made available to the public in 1859.
David Roberts died of apoplexy in London on November 25, 1864. He was buried in West Norwood Cemetery in London.
Museums: London (Wallace Col.), Liverpool, Yale, Edinburgh, Sydney, Mougins…
As described on the reverse by the artist, our painting represents the Saint Béat chapel located in France without further indications. The location is not yet clearly identified. It could most likely be a side chapel of a French Gothic cathedral. It remains to find which one. The main track would be Notre-Dame de Rouen cathedral with fasciculate pillars similar to those present in the composition. Several of the side chapels disappeared during the bombardments of 1944. One of them may have been dedicated to Saint Béat.
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42 000 €