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Robert Hawthorn Kitson
Porte de Tunis, Kairouan, Tunisia

The Painting
A watercolour measuring 22” x 18¾”. Signed R.H. Kitson. Provenance: sometime with the Palser Gallery, 27 King Street, St James’s, London SW1 (label verso). The respected Palser Gallery conducted business from this address between 1913 and 1940. Fragments of other labels exist, but have not been identified.

About the Artist
Robert Hawthorn Kitson (1873-1947) was the son of J.H. Kitson of Elmet Hall, Roundhay, Leeds. The Kitson family business was locomotive engineering, but Robert chose to become an artist, painting mainly in watercolour. He exhibited regularly at the Leeds Fine Arts Club, the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists. He was a pupil and friend of Sir Alfred East, who dedicated his book The Art of Landscape Painting in Oil Colour to him in 1906. It was through East that Kitson met Sir Frank Brangwyn and became his friend and patron. Kitson moved to Sicily for health reasons, where he designed his own villa, Casa Cuseni in Taormina. He was forced to abandon the villa during the Second World War but returned there shortly before his death in 1947. His sketchbooks and papers are held at Leeds University Library.

The Subject
Porte de Tunis (Tunis Gateway), Kairouan, Tunisia. The city of Kairouan in Tunisia is considered by many to be the fourth holiest city in Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. It was founded in 670 and became a great centre of Islamic civilization and scholarship in the 9th century. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kitson had a house in Kairouan for a period in the 1920s, as evidenced by sketches from his house in the Leeds University Library. The market place (souk) in Kairouan is in the old city centre, the Medina, which is surrounded by walls. Porte de Tunis, or Bab Tunis in Arabic, is one of the gateways into the old city leading to the market.

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