Described by poet Lord Byron as "an Italian painter of the first eminence," Giovanni Battista Lusieri began as a topographical and archaeological painter in Rome. By 1782 he had moved to Naples where he was highly sought after by English visitors for his precision, clarity and purity of color, and, as one admirer stated, the "perfection of his outline and perspective." Lusieri staunchly resisted Romanticism, writing: "[I]t is very true that according to present styles . . . pictures are produced which are created in the main part from imagination, but this way of operating I detest [as] one should faithfully imitate nature."
By 1799 Lusieri was leading Lord Elgin's team of draftsmen, sculptors, and architects in Greece and Turkey. He spent the rest of his life assisting with building Elgin's antiquities collection, and helped him acquire the Parthenon fragments now in London's British Museum. With little time for making art, most of his watercolors remained unfinished, and many were lost in an 1828 shipwreck. Lusieri felt that had he not worked for Elgin, he would have achieved fame as an artist and could have influenced the British watercolor school. He suffered from rheumatism but continued to draw in his home below the Acropolis until his death.