This view inside London Zoo shows three camels within a small enclosure adjacent to the ‘Swiss cottage’ they inhabited. To the right, a zebra and goats are confined within a separate enclosure.
After London Zoo first opened in 1828, a number of artists made drawings or paintings of the ‘Zoological Gardens’. Zoological artists in particular regarded the zoo as a resource for scientific illustrations. Some of the most notable artists known to have sketched there include Edward Lear (1812–1888), Henry Stacy Marks (1829–1898), Briton Riviere (1840–1920) and George Scharf, the artist of this work.
Scharf began making sketches at London Zoo of his own accord but was later commissioned by the Zoological Society of London to produce a series of views. His drawings showed how the public experienced of the zoo. The images emphasise the tameness and humorous appeal of the animals, while also demonstrating the sensitivity and civility of the visitors. A portfolio of six coloured prints was lithographed and published by the artist in 1835. However, one set of these prints, held at the Zoological Society of London’s library, includes three additional plates, one of which is dated 1836.
George Johann Scharf was born in Mainburg, Bavaria; the son of a tradesman. He studied under H. Kiermayer and at the Royal Academy in Munich, where he learnt lithography and miniature painting. He travelled through France and the Low Countries, escaping the Antwerp siege in 1814, before joining the British army. He served at Waterloo and made drawings at the Bois de Boulogne encampment. He moved to London in 1816 and later married Elizabeth. Their son, George, was an artist and Director of the National Portrait Gallery. Scharf received commissions for scientific illustrations from Sir R. Owen and Darwin, and recorded the building of London Bridge (1824-31) for the City Corporation. He spent two years in Germany from 1845. He died aged 72.
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