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Creator:
John Frederick Lewis, 1804–1876, British
Title:

A Greek Girl Standing on a Balcony

Date:
1840
Medium:
Watercolor and gouache over graphite on off-white wove paper, laid down on contemporary mount
Dimensions:
Sheet: 16 3/4 x 11 7/16 inches (42.5 x 29.1 cm) and Mount: 17 x 11 3/4 inches (43.2 x 29.8 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Inscribed on back in graphite center: "5692"; in graphite lower right: "LEWIS J.F. | Greek Girl Standing | on Balcony"

Signed in graphite lower right: "LEWIS J.F."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.1321
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architecture | balcony | beach | building | costume | dress | genre subject | Greek | light | woman
Access:
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:10699
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In July 1840 Lewis left Britain for a decade, traveling through the Mediterranean and finally settling in Cairo, where the novelist Thackeray described him living “a dreamy, hazy, lazy, tobaccofied life.” Lewis’s stay in the East inspired a shift in his style towards a meticulous handling and a luminous, high-toned palette mixed with copious amounts of gouache, already seen in this watercolor from his visit to Athens on his way to Cairo. On his return to England in 1852, Lewis was quickly hailed as watercolor’s greatest living exponent. The Art Journal called his style “the ne plus ultra of finish in water-color art.”

Gallery label for Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17)
Other tours followed, including a year-long stay in Rome in 1838, before he left Britain for a decade in July 1840. He headed East, first stopping at Corfu and Albania before reaching Athens in late summer. A Greek Girl Standing on a Balcony belongs to this short stay there in 1840. By October he had rendezvoused with David Wilkie in Constantinople, before moving on to Cairo, where he lived until 1851. Although he was still producing watercolors, this was the start of a ten-year spell when he exhibited nothing in England. Friends back home thought he had gone native, living in the Arab style, "like a languid Lotus-eater -- a dreamy, hazy, lazy, tobaccofied life." This Eastern trip inspired a shift in his style away from the emphasis on heavy tone and dramatic effect derived from Bonington towards a meticulous handling and a luminous, high-toned palette mixed with copious amounts of gouache. A Greek Girl Standing on a Balcony exemplifies this new approach, which won him considerable acclaim when he returned to England from critics grown tired of the ponderous exhibition watercolors so frequently seen in exhibitions. It was effects like the minutely stippled face and the heavy gouache of the folk costume that enraptured one critic, who saw two hundred of his new watercolors, admiring their "mixed ease and severity of drawings, marvels of minute execution, extraordinary delicacy as well as beauty of color. dazzling effects of sun and shade, and a refinement in the expression of the merely sensuous or voluptuous quite without parallel in our recollection.

Matthew Hargraves

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, pp. 175-176, no. 77

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (The State Hermitage Museum, 2007-10-23 - 2008-01-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007-07-11 - 2007-09-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Yale Center for British Art, Great British watercolors : from the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pp. 175-77, no. 77, ND1928 .Y35 2007 (LC)+ Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]


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