John Frederick Lewis (British, London 1805–1876 Walton-on-Thames)
Watercolor and gouache over black chalk on brownish paper
sheet: 11 11/16 x 19 1/8 in. (29.7 x 48.6 cm)
Anonymous Gift, 1961
Not on view
For most of the 1840s, Lewis lived in Egypt, where he famously adopted aspects of a pasha's dress and manner. Among the most accomplished of the Victorian "Orientalists," he is noted for his total mastery of the watercolor medium and his eye for rich detail. In this study for an exhibited work of the same title (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), Lewis captured the sleepy routine of a Cairo schoolroom, centered on a boy reading for a bearded teacher whose attention appears to be elsewhere. The drawing concentrates on the faces and turbans of the seated students and indicates the setting broadly, using the brown paper to suggest unadorned walls and floor and to provide a base for quickly brushed costume elements and the masterfully rendered wood grain of the teacher's desk. In contrast to Lewis's finished watercolors, with their elaborate detailing, this study demonstrates his rapid, informal use of the medium.
Inscription: Notations related to mounting of the drawing are in the artist's hand on the mount.
The artist's sale, Christie's, London, May 4, 1877, (?)156 or 157, "School House Cairo"
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 28, 2003–July 27, 2003.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," March 26, 2007–June 24, 2007.
Major-General Michael Lewis John Frederick Lewis, R.A., 1805–1876. 1978, cat. no. 519, p. 90; related finished watercolors: cat. nos. 559, 596, pp. 92, 96, fig. 57 (the second V&A, London).