David Roberts was born in Edinburgh, and started as a house-painter and decorator. However, in the evenings he studied art, and in 1820 he met Clarkson Stanfield, who encouraged him in an art career. Roberts moved to London in 1822, exhibited at the first show held by the Society of British Artists, and became President of that body in 1831. His most important early picture was Departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and during the early 1830s he began to produce the sketches of foreign lands that were to make him famous. In 1837 the lithographed volume of his works Picturesque Sketches in Spain was published, and the following year Roberts toured the East, sketching from new places virtually ignored by previous British artists. Sketches of the Holy Land and Syria was published in 1850 and there followed several more volumes of illustrations, the last being Italy, Classical, Historical and Picturesque (1859). He became ARA in 1839, and RA two years later. He was working on a new series of views of London on his death in 1864.
Several pictures by Roberts are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Jerusalem is in the Castle Museum, Norwich. The Temple of Dendera is in Bristol.
Top of pageOrientalist painters // Other artists