Howard Carter: Famous Archaeologist, Not-So-Famous Painter
Didn’t know he was an artist too? "Tut tut!"
- By K. Annabelle Smith
- Smithsonian.com, May 09, 2012
It isn’t often that we hear anything about English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter other than this groundbreaking discovery of King Tut's chamber on November 4, 1922. But as we celebrate Carter’s 138th birthday, we also look to his lesser-known talent as an artist.
((c) Griffith Insititute, University of Oxford)
To document his exploration and for his personal records, Howard Carter copied the hieroglyphics he discovered at the sites he worked on. A collection of these works can be found via the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford, who have Carter’s personal album in their collections.
“These watercolors were made before photography was available to most people,” says Griffith Institute Archive Coordinator, Elizabeth Fleming, who has been working with the Carter material for about 28 years. “The only way you could record your journey was to make copies of them. Carter was a talented artist so he was able to do this for himself.”
It was his skill as an artist that took him to Egypt as a 17-year-old working for the London-based Egypt Exploration Fund. He would make copies of hieroglyphics standing in front of the original in the tomb and often pair them with a version of the animal as it would appear in nature.
“Carter had a very good eye. Certainly his copies of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are very faithful based on that,” says Fleming.