A man standing on top of a well in a desert.

Rudolf L. Swoboda

Austrian, 1859-1914

At the Well

1884

Oil on panel

12 x 9 3/4 inches

Signed and dated lower right

Rudolf Swoboda’s beautifully rendered, realistic scenes of daily life in Egypt drew the attention of Queen Victoria, who appointed him as court painter from 1885 to 1892. Swoboda was commissioned to paint the portraits of Indian people and other British colonial subjects for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886. Swoboda also visited the Indian sub-continent and painted portraits of Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus who held a range of occupations.

The present painting, At the Well, was painted in Egypt before Swoboda’s court appointment. The scene depicts the moment a man is interrupted in a common, yet tedious task of drawing water from a well. Evoking the style of photo-realism, the painting is rendered with exacting details of the dry desert landscape, and the delicate folds of the man’s white cloth and the blue cloth thrown across a log. Unlike many other Orientalist painters of his generation who painted indulgent images for Western audiences, Swoboda’s paintings capture the humility and grace of everyday subjects.

A man standing on top of a well in a desert.