John Frederick Lewis is one of the finest of the Orientalist painters. He used a rare technique called Painstaking which made the finish of his painting quite rare. He settled in the native quarters of Cairo in 1841, and he returned back to London in 1851 with work from which he drew inspiration for the next twenty five years. His greatest pleasure was to spend long periods in the desert under the Egyptian sky which was lightened by the beautiful stars (A Century of Master Drawings, Watercolours, and Works in Egg Tempera. London: Peter Nahum).
What was interesting about him is that all the sketches that he drew while he was in Egypt turned later into paintings. His childhood paintings were mostly about animals. Around the year 1827 he started to travel with his father where he started in Scotland and then to Spain Italy and the East. He had lots of sketchbooks, documenting some very beautiful sites that he was impressed by. His sketchbooks were published later and were known as “Drawings of the Alhambra” and “Spanish Characters”. Lewis liked Italy and Egypt so he decided to spend some time in both countries. It can be argued that he liked the relaxed life that people were doing in Egypt where he also met William Thackeray who was sporting eastern garb living the life of a Turkish Pasha (Lewis, Major-General Michael. John Frederick Lewis. Leigh-on-Sea: F. Lewis Publishers, 1978)
One of the reasons why John Frederick Lewis was an orientalist painter is because he was living the life of a Turkish Pasha in Egypt. He was wearing traditional Egyptian clothes where he would be amazed by their inspirational clothes. Because he lived the life of a Turkish Pasha most of his paintings would paint “harem” which in English language would be translated as joy.
A man - in a long yellow gown, with a long beard somewhat tinged with gray, with his head shaved, and wearing on it first a white wadded cotton nightcap, second, a red tarboosh - made his appearance and welcomed me...