J F Lewis, watercolour 1833
Lot 79
John Frederick Lewis, RA, POWS (British, 1805-1876) Asking for alms
Sold for £5,000 (US$ 8,404) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
John Frederick Lewis, RA, POWS (British, 1805-1876)
Asking for alms
signed, inscribed and dated 'J F. Lewis/1833./Seville.' (lower right)
watercolour with scratching out heightened with bodycolour and gum arabic
29 x 40.5cm (11 7/16 x 15 15/16in).


    (probably) London, Society of Painters in Water Colours, 1833, no. 369, as An Andalusian Peasant begging at a Convent Door in Seville

    Lewis had made a name for himself in the 1820s as a painter of animals, working mainly in oils, and exhibiting and selling the same type of subjects as his friend and rival, Edwin Landseer. In 1827, in the first of several changes of direction that characterised his mid-artistic career, he switched his primary working medium to watercolours and travelled to Europe. The rural and genre subjects that he exhibited on his return resulted in his election as a full member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours and their success encouraged him to travel to Spain, then a country much less well-known and less described than Italy.

    Lewis spent approximately eighteen months in Spain, 1832-33, travelling to Madrid and thence via Toledo to Granada and Seville, where he enjoyed the patronage and hospitality of Sir Richard Ford and his wife, Harriet. Returning to London in December 1833, he exhibited Spanish subjects at the SPWC for the rest of the 1830s, their vibrant colours and bravura technique bringing him widespread acclaim and earning him the sobriquet of 'Spanish Lewis'. It is probable that the present lot, clearly inscribed 'Seville', is one of the four Spanish subjects sent by Lewis from Spain for exhibition in 1833, An Andalusian Peasant begging at a Convent Door in Seville (SPWC, no.369), apparently bought by Lewis's dealer, Thomas Griffith, for a 'Mr Evans'. At the same time, the architectural detail is similar to that seen in A Convent Door, Toledo (San Juan les Reyes), one of the lithographs published by Lewis in 1836 as Sketches of Spain & Spanish Character. Whether or not Lewis was eliding the two locations, it is clear that beneath the veneer of his appealing colours and his picturesque treatment of the subject, he is marking the gap between ecclesiastical wealth and rural poverty.

    We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.
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