Tyndale was a painter in watercolour of landscapes and architectural subjects, and portraits and genre scenes in oil.
The artist was born in Bruges, Belgium, of English parents. At the age of 15, he began studying at Bruges Academy but the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war forced the family to return to England. On his return to Belgium in 1874, he enrolled at the Antwerp Academy where he won a silver medal.
In 1876 he went to Paris to study under Léon Bonnat, a portraitist and Orientalist who six years earlier had travelled with a group of artists including Jean-Léon Gérôme to the Valley of the Nile, Sinai and Syria. Bonnat’s stories and sketches that he brought back from Egypt fuelled Tyndale’s interest in the Orient and his desire to travel there himself, although this was not to happen for some time yet.
In 1878, Tyndale returned to England where he made a healthy living painting posthumous portraits on commission. During the first part of his career, Tyndale painted in oil. It is believed that his first experience of watercolour was when he was asked by a young female artist to teach her to paint in watercolour. Having completed a week’s course and spent the whole summer of 1893 painting in watercolour, Tyndale mastered the technique and decided that he would only paint in watercolours from then on.
IHis first taste of the Orient appears to be two holidays he spent in Tangier in 1894 and 1895 from where he brought back some watercolours. The directors of the Dowdeswell Galleries in London were so impressed with these that they commissioned him to paint 60 views of Egypt. In 1897, Tyndale arrived in Cairo and spent the next two years in Egypt, visiting Lebanon and Syria during the hottest summer months. In Cairo, Tyndale set about painting street scenes with a fellow artist that he met, Alfred East. Tyndale was lucky to have the assistance of a dragoman who was able to speak to the stall owners and obtain permission for the artist to use the backs of their shops as observation posts for sketching.
The dragoman also shooed away inquisitive children and pious passers by who objected to the representation of the human form in images. The dragoman was not always successful – once during Ramadan, a young man protested so fiercely to the inclusion of a fruit stall owner in Tyndale’s painting that a fight ensued during which the artist was hit. The incident concluded with the young man having to spend 16 days in prison, and the artist having to find another sitter!
In 1898 Tyndale sent back drawings to England for an exhibition, and the following year he returned in person for another exhibition of his works entitled ‘Cairo, Jerusalem and Sicily’.
In 1905 he returned to Cairo where he spent most of the next 5 years. He was invited by an English family to sail up the Nile in their luxurious dahabieh. He also spent 3 months in Nubia and a few weeks in Luxor, sketching. The following year he returned to Luxor where he painted watercolours of the relief’s of the temples of Deir el-Bahari, Seti and Edfou. He wrote accounts of these Egyptian travels in two books – ‘Below the Cataracts’ (1907) and ‘An Artist in Egypt‘ (1912), which had been commissioned by his editor to accompany the 60 or so illustrations rendered from his watercolours. The success of ‘Below the Cataracts’ prompted his editor to send him to Japan in 1909 to bring back more material for another book.