Edward Lear, A View of Menton from across the Bay


Edward Lear, A view of Menton from across the bay.
Signed with monogram (lower right). Pencil, watercolour and bodycolour. 16.5 x 26cm (6 1/2 x 10 1/4in).

Lear had moved to Nice in November 1864 where he began work on 240 of what he termed his ‘Tyrants’. These were systematically worked up watercolours, taken from sketches and painted simultaneously in a production line method. They were sold relatively cheaply at around 10 guineas and although they are an achievement in terms of workload and inventiveness their varying quality and formulaic approach have been criticised.

After this herculean effort, Lear set out on foot and painted around the coast of the Corniche for a month, capturing the beautiful scenery of the coast from Nice to Menton. The present and following lot would seem to date from this time and show his focus on the detail in the middle distance with the rocky foregrounds left understated and the dramatic hills plunging into the Mediterranean.


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Edward Lear, The Valley of Jehosaphat with Jerusalem Beyond


Edward Lear, The Valley of Jehosaphat with Jerusalem beyond.
Signed with monogram (lower right). Watercolour and bodycolour. 9.5 x 19.5cm (3 3/4 x 7 11/16in).

Edward Lear travelled to Jerusalem from Corfu and arrived on 27 March 1858. His diary records his travels outside the walls of the city, ‘We crossed the Kidron and went up the Mount of Olives – every step bringing fresh beauty to the city uprising behind’ (Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p.149).

Lear went on to camp for a week on the Mount of Olives making studies and preparatory drawings of the view of Jerusalem in April/May 1858 for a commission from Lady Waldegrave. He worked these up into many successful compositions such as View of Jerusalem, 1858 (Tate Britain). The present lot shows a view of the Valley of Jehosaphat, with Jerusalem on the left with Temple Mount just visible and Absolom’s Pillar in the central middle distance. Lear was particularly interested in the light at dawn and evening, the simple colour scheme of gold, green and purple working to excellent effect. He wrote, ‘just at sunrise the view of the city is most lovely…all gold and white beyond the dark fig and olive trees’. (Vivien Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, David & Charles, London, 1991, p.72).


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Edward Lear, Dhows on the Nile at Sunset (1853)


Edward Lear, Dhows on the Nile at sunset.
Inscribed and dated ‘4pm 31 December 1853′ (lower left). Watercolour, pen and ink. 9.5 x 23cm (3 3/4 x 9 1/16i.


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Edward Lear in Malta, Corfu, and Lake Maggiore


I have received John Varriano’s new book on Edward Lear in Malta, a gorgeous addition to the recent fashion of books and / or exhibitions on Lear’s travels to different parts of the world. This beautiful oblong volume contains a detailed discussion of the painter’s visits to the island and in particular the last one in 1865-1866, lists all known landscape paintings he did of the island — most of those that can still be traced are illustrated — and prints transcripts of the diaries and letters written in the period he stayed there. Highly recommended.

You may remember there was an exhibition in Corfu a couple of years ago on Edward Lear and the Ionian Islands; one of the events connected with this was a lecture on Edward Lear by psychiatrist Anthony Stevens, which I have found is available in its entirety on YouTube: Dr Stevens states that Lear suffered from “a severe body dysmorphic disorder,” i.e. was obsessed with his physical appearance.

Finally, if you read Italian you should not miss Paola Vozza’s long post on Il paesaggio secondo Lear, which also has a gallery with several of the landscapes Lear painted of the Italian alpine lakes.

Isola San Giulio. Lago di Orta. 1842.

Isola San Giulio. Lago di Orta. 1842.

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Edward Lear in Malta


The exhibition curated by John Varriano on Edward Lear’s Malta watercolours, Edward Lear: Watercolours and Words, has opened at Palazzo Falson, Mdina, and will be on until 4 January 2015 (here is an article from The Malta Independent).


Professor Varriano, who also gave a lecture on 18 October, has a new book on Edward Lear in Malta published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti in Valletta. It can be ordered from the Book Distributors Limited website.

More events  connected with the exhibition include an Artists’ Workshop with John Martin Borg and a Gallery talk by Catherine Galea.

Previously on Lear in Malta.

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Edward Lear, Syra, Ermoupoli (1864)


Edward Lear, View of Ermoupoli, Syros.
Inscribed ‘Syra. Ermoupoli. June 1. 5.30 AM/ 182′ and dated ‘1864’ l.r. Watercolour. 17 x 32 cm. (6¾ x 12½ in.)

Lear visited Syra on his way back to Athens at the end of a two month exploration of Crete during which he made nearly two hundred drawings. He had sailed from Khanià early in the morning of 31 May, and sat on deck as the boat sailed north through the Cyclades. “The multitude of ‘Isles of Greece’ is quite uncommon and lovely”, he wrote in his diary, “About eight we reached Syra. A wonderful voyage!”.


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A Day in the Studio with Edward Lear

Another previously unpublished letter Edward Lear sent to William Holman Hunt exactly 150 years ago (see Diary 6.x.64). This one contains a humorous description of a day in Lear’s London studio while he is trying to do some work.

15 Stratford Place. Oxford St. W.
October. 1864

My dear Daddy,

I was glad to hear from you just now, & as you much want some amusement, even if ever so small, I will write a bit, trusting the chance that people won’t call before I have got two or 3 hour’s work at my brambles & bricks & lizards. A heap of callers have been here of late ― & nearly all oldish personal friends, so I am a good deal behind-hand as to work, & believe, after all that I must give up going on Monday to Faringford, ― for ― if I leave this picture very much unfinished, the foreboding of fogs & other interruptions ― keeping me in England ―― would destroy all my fun if I left town. Some good scenes might be drawn out of Studio life ― as for instance.

(4 ladies ― having staid for 2 hours ― rise to go.)

1st Lady “What a treat my dear Mr Lear! but how wrong it is of you to stay so much in doors! You should take more care of your health ― work is all very well but if your health fails you know you will not be able to work at all, & what could [would?] you do then! Now pray go out & only see your friends before 12 or 1. in the morning.
2nd Lady ― But how dreadful these interruptions must be! I cannot think how you ever do anything! ― Why do you allow people to break in on you. So? It quite shocks me to think we have taken up so much time.
3d Lady. Yes, indeed: these are the best hours of the day. You should never see any one after 2 o’clock.
4th Lady. You should walk early, & then you could see your friends all the rest of the day. Interruptions must be so dreadful!

(Enter 4 more ladies. The first 4 rush to them.)

All 8 Ladies ― How charming! how fortunate! dear Mary! Dear Jane! dear Emily! dear Sophia! &c.

5th Lady ― How wrong of you dear Mr. Lear to be indoors this fine day!
6th Lady. ― How you can ever work I cannot think! you really should not admit visitors at all hours!
7th Lady ― But do let us only sit & look at these beautiful sketches!
8th Lady. O how charming! & we will not go to Lady O’s.

The other 4 Ladies. O then we also will all sit down again ― it is so dreadful.

Chorus of 8 Ladies. What a charming life an artist’s is! ―

Artist. ――――― D ―――n!

&c. &c. &c.

I can now understand Mrs. N’s feelings about the Dr.’s picture. I did not take to Mrs. N― it is difficult to do so now a days to most clergy. (The Bishops are getting it right & left from the Times, & justly enough. Gloucester & Lincoln must wish they had said less, for they surely cannot seriously believe their order will gain in the end, by setting the intellectual element of the Community dead against their own.          I find people like the Jánina picture immensely: the brambles &c. ― & a great deal more I owe to you.

I am sorry F. has not bought the Selborne estate: ― the property is in a most delightful part of England ― & he may never again have such a chance. ― Your stay at Burton must have a good many tough drawbacks: ―[some words have been blotted] In the South, where servants

There must have been a second sheet, but I have not been able to find it.

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