Ernest E. Abbott, signed George Cope – ‘Pharaoh’s Tomb’ , circa 1925

$595.00 AUD

Ernest E. Abbott (1888-1973)

“Pharaoh’s Tomb”

watercolour & gouache on paper

showing an Arab on a camel in an atmospherical desert landscape, a walled domed structure to one side with palm trees and small figures, the whole scene infused with golden late-afternoon sunlight achieved with yellow highlights to the left of most objects.

Signed ‘G.Copely’ lower right,

inscribed to the back ‘Pharaoh’s Tomb / Original Watercolour by G. Cope’, also gallery label for ‘T. S. GLASIER & CO. 284-6 / Gallery of Art/ Little Collins Street, Melbourne (item no. 5282)

visible 26cm x 11cm


Condition: Good condition with excellent colour.


‘George Cope’ was an alias, used by English/Australian artist Ernest Edwin Abbott (1888-1973).
Born in 1888 at Bideford, Devon, he came to Australia and trained as a sign writer in Western Australia. In 1917 he opened a studio in Melbourne. He seems to have completely given up on art in around 1939- the beginning of WWII. The last 30 years of his life don’t seem to have any artistic products; he ran a machine workshop instead.

As well as watercolours like this example, he also produced a lot of short-run etchings. Subjects are mainly Australian scenery, but he also did English and Egyptian scenes – like this example – possibly reflecting trips back to ‘home’ via the Suez Canal.

In this case, the tomb is not an ancient Egyptian tomb, but a typical Arab whitewashed tomb complex of a much later date: perhaps the local tradition was that it was the tomb of a Pharaoh, which suggests he was there in person to paint it. Other watercolours show ancient Egyptian temples in great detail, which support the ‘on-site’ idea, rather than an imaginative scene done in a Melbourne studio.

Online art records are full of discrepancies when it comes to Cope-signed etchings: it seems the American artist George Cope (1855-1929) has been mistaken for this ‘alias’, but a check of the American’s artworks reveals they are very different in nature – and never Australian subjects. The mystery is why E.E. Abbott took that exact name….. and why he was never publicly acknowledged, or exhibited, like his contemporaries such as Baldwinson and Victor Cobb.  There’s more to be discovered about the mysterious George Cope /Ernest E. Abbott…..




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