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ALEXANDER, Sir James Edward.

Original watercolour view of the coast of Jamaica with the Blue Mountains in the background and two fishing boats in the foreground.

Jamaica , 1831 Stock Code: 98688
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A highly evocative watercolour view of the Jamaican coastline with the famed Blue Mountains, the longest mountain range of the island, in the background.

Sir James Alexander, the artist, noted the grandeur of this very scene in the published version of his travels: "After a week's run we sighted afar off the dim outline of part of St. Domingo, and then the lofty mountains near Point Morant, the eastern cape of Jamaica. It was a magnificent scene, this part of the island; the Blue Mountains, eight thousand feet high, towered above a stratum of clouds, and the rugged hills below them were furrowed by ravines; we could see no level land, but the steep cliffs descended abruptly into the sea, on which were one or two small coasting vessels. As we approached nearer, we observed that the hills were not altogether barren, black forests were upon their sides, and patches of bright emerald green, and white houses, were seen as we ran along the south coast towards Port Royal" (Transatlantic Sketches, Comprising Visits to the Most Interesting Scenes in North and South America, and the West Indies 1833. 2 vols. vol. I. p.285).

Alexander (1803-1885) was a British army officer and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He served in India, Persia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, participated in the First Anglo-Burmese War, and Crimean War. It was he who "saved Cleopatra's Needle from destruction, and had much to do with its transfer to England in 1877. At its base he buried, among other artefacts, photographs of the twelve best-looking English women of the day. His extensive travels provided material for his varied publications, which included Travels from India to England (1827) and Cleopatra's Needle (1879)" (ODNB). In 1831, in the rank of Captain of 42nd Royal Highlanders, Alexander travelled to British Guiana, West Indies, United States and Canada. In South America he went up the Essequibo River, in the West Indies extensively travelled around Barbados, Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Vincent, Jamaica "with its blue mountains, fertile savannahs, and deadly lagoons" and Cuba. Then he sailed to New Orleans and went up the Mississippi to Memphis, through Tennessee and Kentucky to Louisville and the Falls of Ohio. After that he went to Virginia, visited Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, crossed Lake Ontario to York (Upper Canada), saw Kingston, Ottawa and along St. Lawrence River went to Quebec, before moving on to to New York, Washington, where met the President, Boston, from there returning to Liverpool. Alexander "volunteered to execute commissions" for Royal Geographical Society and "other literary and scientific individuals" regarding places he visited and was very interested in the problems of "slavery, military matters, state of society and manners" (from the Preface).

The present watercolour was certainly intended to be an illustration for his Transatlantic Sketches, but was not included in the final publication, the Caribbean being represented by views of St. Vincent and Havana.

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Watercolour and ink on paper (90 x 380 mm), titled in pencil "Blue Mt. Jamaica" in the lower right corner; mounted on contemporary grey card mount (440 x 555 mm) with wash-line, and titled, initialled and dated in reddish ink "Blue Mountain, Jamaica, 1831, J.E.A.", window-mounted, framed and glazed.


Mount a little soiled and with a few minor chips, but the sketch itself clean and overall in very good condition.


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