As a follow up to my post Old Athens, I thought I’d write a few words about Edward Dodwell (1767 – 1832), an Irish painter, traveller and archaeologist, who travelled widely in Greece, making exquisite paintings in the process.
Edward Dodwell was born in Dublin to an ancient and wealthy Irish family, and studied Classics and Archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge. Being in possession of a large fortune and free from professional commitments, he dedicated himself to the study of Mediterranean cultures.
Dodwell travelled from 1801 to 1806 in Greece, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1801 he sailed to the Ionian Islands and the Troad with Atkins and the well-known traveller William Gell. In 1805 he visited continental Greece in the company of the painter Simone Pomardi, during which time they produced almost one thousand illustrations. These bring to life a vanished world that, since then, have enchanted European travelers and inspired their passionate pursuit of classical antiquity.
“Almost every rock, every promontory, every river, is haunted by the shadows of the mighty dead,” Dodwell wrote, conveying with aesthetic sensitivity the discovery of each place, the journey of exploration of an unknown landscape; and managing to combine monuments, history, and contemporary life.
Dodwell’s paintings contain an immense wealth of information on Greek public and domestic life during the years before the War of Independence. He was often invited to stay in the houses of prominent Greeks.
Apart from archaeological issues, he wrote about the dances, music and games of the Greeks, as well as about local insects and birds.
His observations are varied – he notes, for example, the presence of a number of black slaves in the town of Patras and elsewhere, writes of Ali Pasha’s extortions, and lists the products peculiar to each region.
Dodwell was in Athens in March 1805, while Lord Elgin’s crews were pillaging the sculptures of the Acropolis monuments.
Dodwell published A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece (1819); Views in Greece, with thirty colored plates (1821); and Views and Descriptions of Cyclopian or Pelasgic Remains in Italy and Greece (1834). These books are still of value to archaeologists today.
He subsequently lived in Naples and Rome, and married a woman thirty years his junior. Unfortunately he caught an illness and died in 1832, while exploring the mountains of Italy. His large archaeological collection, of coins, 115 bronzes and 143 vases, kept for a time in his house in Rome, was later sold to the Munich Glyptothek.