David Roberts was a Scottish painter primarily known for his series of detailed prints of Egypt and the Near East, which he produced during the 1840s from sketches he had made during long tours of the region (1838-1840). These works, in addition to his large oil paintings of similar subjects, made him a prominent Orientalist painter.
By late 1838 a 42 year-old Scottish artist named David Roberts had established himself as a respected scenic and architectural painter living in London. He had traveled rather extensively and published a set of drawings called "Picturesque sketches in Spain" with much success. Convicted of a growing demand for visual images of exotic places, he left London in route for the distant lands of Egypt, Nubia, the Holy Land, Syria, and other areas of the Middle East to record the architectural remains, monuments and the heritage of native people.
Roberts made over 100 drawings up and down the Nile River. After his boat travels, he settled in Cairo for around six weeks. There he added details to his River Nile sketches and captured the busy street life, mosques and bazaars. He continued his studies for the next eleven months. Roberts didn't complete paintings there, but rather used the sketches and other material to use in his studio.
Upon his return, he met with the publisher F.G. Moon who would produce his drawings in an expressive folio format as tinstone lithographs. The project would take eight years to produce as a collaborative effort between Roberts and the famed Belgian lithographer Louis Haghe. Hague was an artist in his own right whose personal style meshed almost perfectly with Roberts. The result is widely regarded as the finest tintstone lithographs ever made.
In 1838, David Roberts traveled from London to Egypt and the Holy Land to draw and paint famous ruins and biblical locations. At the time, most Europeans had never visited the Middle East; travel was difficult, often dangerous, slow and expensive. With photography in its infancy, most images that were available were romanticized in some manner and resembled little of the actual landscape or people.