Valetta, Malta (Dated 1839)
About this artwork
Roberts was quarantined at Malta after the completion of his journey to the Holy Land during May and June of 1839. This watercolour shows Valletta’s Marsamuscetto Harbour viewed from his room in the fort. Despite the large size, Roberts wrote in a letter that he felt little inclination to work. He found the heat made working difficult, and confessed that "I am now tired, tired of it, and unfortunately after Egypt and Syria everything loses". In the National Museum of Fine Arts in Malta there is another watercolour by Roberts of Valletta, showing a view of the Grand Harbour.
Roberts' international renown as a landscape painter developed from the lithographs published after his watercolours, inspired by his travels in Europe and the Middle East. He appears in eastern dress in Robert Scott Lauder's splendid portrait of him in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Roberts was apprenticed to an Edinburgh house painter and worked on theatrical sets before establishing himself as a landscape artist. Inspired by Turner, he made regular expeditions abroad. His carefully composed, atmospheric paintings convey both the excitement of experiencing picturesque and exotic sites with fascinating details. Roberts' appointment as a Commissioner for the Great Exhibition of 1851, under the patronage of Prince Albert, confirmed his status.