Past

Expanding Horizons | Giovanni Battista Lusieri and the Panoramic Landscape

  • 30th June − 28th October 2012 | Scottish National Gallery | £7 (£5)

Greece

Lusieri spent the second half of his career, from 1800 until his death in 1821, working in the eastern Mediterranean in the service of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine. Apart from a forced retreat to Malta due to the war in 1807-9, Athens remained the artist’s main base for the rest of his life.

Although employed in the capacity of painter, Lusieri soon assumed a much broader managerial role over the team of artists and craftsmen Elgin had assembled. Lusieri became Elgin’s principal agent on the ground, negotiating and supervising the removal, packing and transport of works of sculpture and architecture from the buildings on the Acropolis, notably the Parthenon. 

Lusieri’s collecting and archaeological activities left him much less time for his art. He began a large number of outline drawings of Athens and its monuments, some of them huge in scale and immensely detailed, but he completed very few, much to Elgin’s frustration. Only six finished works survive from his twenty years’ activity in Greece. Almost all of his outline drawings were lost when the ship transporting them back to Britain long after his death was wrecked off the coast of Crete. 

During his later years in Greece Lusieri often led a rather isolated existence, starved of news and funds for long periods, but he is mentioned fondly by many travellers to Athens as a very genial host and most knowledgeable guide.