The German painter, Adolf Seel, became a specialist in architectural scenes, both with and without figures, and in both oil and watercolour. Once established, he became keen to broaden his range of subject matter, and travelled extensively around the Mediterranean, developing a particular passion for Orientalism. Adolf Seel was born on 1 March 1829, in Wiesbaden, then in the Grand duchy of Hesse and the Rhine, one of the states of the German Confederation. In 1844, he moved northwest to Düsseldorf, in Prussia, to study at the Kunstakademie under Rudolf Wiegmann and Karl Ferdinand Sohn.
During his six years there, he specialised increasingly in landscape painting, and made friends with Andreas Aschenbach, Ludwig Knaus and Carl Friedrich Lessing. Following a long stay, and further study, in Paris in 1852, he returned to Düsseldorf, and spent the following decade gradually making his name as a painter of architectural subjects. He then began to travel, both in Europe and further afield, in order to broaden his range.
He spent the years 1864-65 in Italy, and focussed in particular on the Basilica of St Mark’s in Venice. Then through the years 1870-71, he visited Spain, Portugal and the north coast of Africa, cultivating an interest in Moorish and Arabic art and architecture. Notably, he made many studies of the Alhambra in Granada that would form the basis of a number of major paintings. once in the grip of an orientalist passion, he returned to North Africa in the years 1873-74, visiting Egypt – where he based himself in Cairo – and going on to Palestine. From this time, figures became more dominant in his compositions, contributing to their picturesque atmosphere. He exhibited across the German-speaking world, and received the Grand Golden Medal of the City of Vienna in 1876 and the Golden Medal in Berlin in 1878. He died in Dillenburg, Hesse, on 14 February 1907.