Subsiding the Nile

Subsiding the Nile, 1873
Frederick Goodall (1822-1904)
Oil on canvas
BORGM 00908
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum


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Subsiding the Nile

The scene in this painting is bathed in sunlight and focuses on the landscape following the subsiding of the waters of the Nile. It shows the Giza Plateau from the south east with the Great Pyramid of Khufu on the right and the Pyramid of Khafra on the left behind the palm trees. The Sphinx is just visible in the centre distance. It was painted in England, and the sheep in the foreground were a flock he bought in Egypt and sent to England to be used as models. Everyday life is shown with a village on the left, and in the centre, women going about their daily business, tending the sheep, and filling a pot with water.

This painting is a replica by the artist of a work exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1873, then at the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition in 1877 and now at Cape Town City Hall. Merton, who knew the artist, called it in his autobiography “a fine conception of the subject”.

Goodall visited Egypt twice; in 1858 and again in 1870, both times travelling and camping with the nomadic Bedouin people. On his first visit to Egypt, he shared a house and studio with artist, Carl Haag and the pair often sketched together, both in the streets and outside Cairo, especially in the area around the Pyramids. On his second visit in 1870, he lived at Saqqara, near the Pyramids with the aim of directly observing Bedouin lifestyles. After his return to England, Goodall painted many variations of the same Eastern themes. The Egyptian theme was prominent in his work, with 170 paintings being exhibited at the Royal Academy over 46 years.

Frederick Goodall was born in London in 1822. Goodall’s first commission, for Isambard Brunel, was six watercolour paintings of the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Four of these were exhibited at the Royal Academy when Frederick was 16. His first oil won a Society of Arts silver medal. He exhibited work at the Royal Academy 27 times between 1838 and 1859. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1852 and a full Royal Academician (RA) in 1863.