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David Roberts was 42 when he set off, in 1838, on the second of his important foreign journeys.

Roberts left London in August 1838. In the course of two and a half months travelling some 800 miles south from Cairo, David Roberts recorded the monumental temple sites along the Nile in more than a hundred sketches. In 1839 he undertook the second part of his journey, leaving Cairo in the company of two friends, travelling through Suez, Mount Sinai and Petra, and continuing on up through the Holy Land and into modern day Lebanon.

He continued to paint until his sudden death in 1864 when he was in the middle of a popular series of London subjects, left unfinished. For a poor shoemaker's son, who left school at 12 or 13, had no formal art training at all, but learned his craft as a house painter, then as a scene painter, his was a great achievement.

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