AUSTRIAN orıentalıst paınter
Rudolph Swoboda (Austrian, 1859-1914)
Rudolf Swoboda was born in Vienna in 1859 and studied under his uncle Leopold Carl Müller between 1878 and 1884. It was from Müller that Swoboda developed an interest in Orientalist art, cemented by a visit to see his uncle in Egypt in 1879. This marked the first of six visits made by the artist to Egypt between 1880 and 1891.
Between 1885 and 1892 Swoboda worked for Queen Victoria and in 1886 travelled to India, passing through Afghanistan and Kashmir on route, to undertake a commission from the sovereign. Queen Victoria paid for the artist's passage and gave him £300 to cover his travelling expenses. In return he was to provide the Queen with sketches worth £300. The Queen gave Swoboda specific instructions: 'The Sketches Her Majesty wishes to have – are of the various types of the different nationalities. They should consist of heads of the same size as those already done for The Queen, and also small full lengths, as well as sketches of landscapes, buildings, and other scenes. Her Majesty does not want any large pictures done at first, but thinks that perhaps you could bring away material for making them should they eventually be wished for'.
This was one of eight portraits painted by Swoboda for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in 1886. Bakshiram was a potter, alleged to be over 102 years old, from Agra.
Unlike many Orientalist artists of the later nineteenth century, who painted as much to indulge the imagination of a Western audience as to reflect a social reality, Swoboda's paintings are grounded more in the day-to-day existence of the people he observed on his travels.