1 July 1899. Grisaille watercolour on cardboard, heightened in white, ca. 16x22 cm (ca. 6 ¼ x 8 ½ in), within hand-drawn ink frame. Signed “F.C.D.” in watercolour in the left lower corner. Ink stamp “1 Jul 99” on verso. Mounted in a recent mat, overall a very good watercolour.
This captivating watercolour was published in “The Graphic” (# 1544, 1 July 1899, p. 8), as one of the four illustrations to "Railway enterprise in West Africa: With a surveying expedition to Kumassi”. The scene shows a European explorer on his way through the deep jungle of “Dark” Africa, knee-deep in black mud and armed with a sword and a revolver. His white military uniform and pith helmet are shown in strong contrast with almost naked native porters, who are carrying heavy expedition supplies, including a surveyor's distance wheel.
The explorer shown was British railway engineer Frederic Shelford (1871-1943), who undertook the very difficult task of surveying the previously impenetrable jungle of the Gold Coast (Southern Ghana) for the prospective railroad from the gold mines of Tarkwa to Kumasi.
“The Graphic” described his expedition in these words: “We reproduce this week some sketches by Mr. Frederick Shelford, who has made many trips to some most outlandish parts of the African and American continents for the Colonial Office, seeking for desirable routes for the construction of light railways to open up and render accessible some of our beautiful and fertile, but very remote tropical possessions. <…> The sketches refer to Mr. Shelford’s latest exploration – namely, through the great West African forest belt to Kumassi, not by one of the well-known routes from the coast to the capital of Ashanti, but in a bee line from the Turkwa Gold Mines through unknown country, a journey involving a five weeks’ tramp of 360 miles. There being no road, and no native being found capable of guiding the expedition, Mr. Shelford had to pick his way through the forest by compass and such information as the few natives encountered were able to afford, and was compelled to follow bush hunters’ tracks densely overgrown and frequently knee deep in water and black, oozy mud.
Kumassi, so long a thorn in the side of Great Britain, was found now to be a smart up-to-date military station, with the only draw-back that a three-shilling bag of rice costs twenty-five shillings more to get there. There is a large fort, from which centre of the whole country for many scores of miles in every direction is administered by the British Resident, a post now ably filled by Captain Donald Stewart, C.M.G. <…> Mr. Shelford was accompanied during this trip by Dr. J.C. Matthews and sixty carriers” (# 1544, 1 July 1899, p. 7).
Price: $1,250.00 USD