William James Müller (1812 – 1845) was born in Bristol and grew up amongst the city’s culture as his father was J. S. Müller, curator of Bristol Museum. His early artistic career was inspired by great painters of the past including Claude Lorrain as well as the landscapes of Gloucestershire.
Travel became an important part of Müller’s life and work and in 1834 he visited France, Switzerland and Italy and later in 1838 he travelled to Greece and Egypt, where he would draw the ruins and landscapes of these cultures.
In 1843 Müller accompanied archaeologist Charles Fellows on a government expedition to the ancient rock tombs of Lycia in Turkey. Müller spent three months sketching the landscape, architecture and culture of the area and upon returning to England, worked these into a successful series of paintings.
This picture in the Worcester City collection, Study of a Sheik Reposing was probably created during this time and depicts Turkish culture as rich and exotic in a way that was popular among Victorian arts audiences and which shaped British ideas of the Middle East.
Müller is also known for giving oil painting lessons to artist David Cox, who was more renowned for working in watercolours.