Roberts' international renown as a landscape painter developed from the lithographs published after his watercolours, inspired by his travels in Europe and the Middle East. He appears in eastern dress in Robert Scott Lauder's splendid portrait of him in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Roberts was apprenticed to an Edinburgh house painter and worked on theatrical sets before establishing himself as a landscape artist. Inspired by Turner, he made regular expeditions abroad. His carefully composed, atmospheric paintings convey both the excitement of experiencing picturesque and exotic sites with fascinating details. Roberts' appointment as a Commissioner for the Great Exhibition of 1851, under the patronage of Prince Albert, confirmed his status.