John Varley, Jr. (British, 1850–1933)
The School near Bab al-Sha‛riyah, Cairo, 1880
Oil on canvas, 20 x 15 in.
Signed and dated lower left: John Varley. 1880
Like many artists from the Victorian era, John Varley Jr. sought to capture the picturesque streets of Cairo that were not touched by the modernization and European-style urban development of the city. Bab al-Sha‛riyah, a quarter located in eastern Cairo, is one such example. Here, Varely Jr. depicts a narrow street nearby adorned with closely set buildings and shops with overhangs – a typical street pattern designed to protect from the sun and heat during the long summer months. The colorful locals going about their daily activities, with more buildings and a mosque in the distant skyline lends the image both a realist and authentic air.
Born into a large family of artists, John Varley Jr. was the grandson of the more famous John Varley (1778–1842). Varley Jr. traveled in both the Middle and Far East, exhibiting his paintings regularly at the Royal Academy in London, as well as in other venues. In 1874, he sailed to Egypt in a yacht he constructed, and stayed for two years, learning to speak Arabic fluently and producing numerous images from his sojourn, particularly in Cairo. His oeuvre varies between oil paintings and watercolors.