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Picturesque Sketches in Spain 1837

David Roberts visited Spain between 1832 and 1833 with the works completed from this tour helping to elevate his status as an artist back in London. Besides John Frederick Lewis, no other professional artist from Britain had painted so widely across Spain in the early part of the 19th century making his depictions highly prized. Once back home various publishers wanted to use his drawings for publications after seeing the reaction from his fellow artists and the public. Firstly, works from his trip were used to illustrate 'The Jenning's Landscape Annuals' which were published in London and written by Thomas Roscoe. They were lavishly illustrated with engravings after Roberts' works and released in four volumes with the first launching in 1835. However, it is the more important work titled 'Picturesque Sketches in Spain' that links to the lithographs we have for sale. The publishers Hodgson & Graves agreed with Roberts to use twenty six of his watercolours to produce a folio of lithographs. Roberts himself lithographed many of the works after not being fully satisfied by some of the previous engravings, in some instances this was purely the characters in the composition or an important architectural feature. The other lithographers involved in this project included Thomas Shotter Boys, Allom, Gauci and Louis Haghe. The introduction to the latter produced to be an important relationship as Haghe produced all of the lithographs between 1842-1849 of Roberts' even higher profile tour to the Holy Land and Egypt.

The Literary Gazette on 25th March 1837 (p.195) was particularly impressed with the this career defining work saying :

'There is no country in which all the gorgeous pageantry of the Catholic religion has been, and still is, so profusely and ostentatiously displayed in Spain, and a large proportion of these sketches are devoted to its illustration by Mr Roberts, with what success his former works render it unnecessary to say.'

The success of the work is illustrated by the fact that it went through many reprints and was still selling in 1857.


Helen Guiterman and Briony Llewellyn. David Roberts. Exhibition Catalogue, Phaidon Press and Barbican Art Gallery, 1986.

Katherine Sim. David Roberts R.A. 1796-1864: A Biography. Quartet Books: London, 1984.

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