David Roberts was born in Edinburgh but his success was in England and abroad. After a brief apprenticeship as a shoemaker under his father, he trained as a house-painter and decorator. After a chance meeting with Clarkson Stansfield in the 1820s, he was persuaded to send his work to a show of Work by Living Artists in Edinburgh. Soon after this was his move to London, working in several posts in Westend theatres, and his acceptance into the Society of British Artists.
His travels throughout Europe, North Arfica and the Middle-East in the 1820s exposed his particular style. His speciality was topographical and architectural painting, with the detail usually being extremely accurate. He became widely known for his many series of detailed works produced in Spain, Tangiers, Egypt, Nubia, the Sinai, Jordan and Lebanon.
He employed a rare ability to recall interiors and architectural studies produced from earlier sketches of which were executed on the long tours he took in the region. A contemporary of John Linnell and J. M. Turner, he showed alongside some of the greatest names in 19th Century British art a the Royal Academy, to which he was accepted in 1839.