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Another previously unpublished letter Edward Lear sent to William Holman Hunt exactly 150 years ago (see Diary 6.x.64).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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Edward Lear, Auribeau (1868)


Edward Lear, Auribeau.
Signed with monogram l.r., inscribed ‘Abribeau’ and dated ’1868′ l.l. Watercolour. 33 x 51.5 cm. (13 x 20 1/4 in.)

Lear was in Cannes until April of 1868. From there he could make expeditions into the hills; he and his servant Giorgio would leave Cannes early in the morning, and he would spend the day drawing.
Lear made several visits to Auribeau- a medieval village between Cannes and Grasse. It is perched on top of a rocky peak above the Siagne gorge and has stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Lear’s European travels were now coming to an end and with the exception of a few drawings produced in the Italian Alps during the summer months of the 1880s, his depictions of the South of France were the last of his European drawings. Lear, was at the height of his powers as a draughtsman and watercolourist when he painted the present work which is a stunning rendition of this beautiful hilltop town.


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Edward Lear, Luxor (1854)


Edward Lear, Luxor.
Extensively inscribed throughout; inscribed, dated and numbered ‘Luxor 17 Feby 1854/ 6/2 PM/ 217′ (lower right); inscribed ‘No. 6 single’ (verso). Pencil, watercolour and bodycolour. 24.8 x 45.8cm (9 3/4 x 18 1/16in)

“On February 8th he began on the return journey [from Aswan], and a week later the boat reached Luxor. Here he spent another ten days exploring Karnak and the ruined temples and Thebes and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings: it was all more magnificent than Philae, but not so drawable.” (Noakes 1968, p.124)


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Edward Lear, Venice (1865)


Edward Lear, Venice.
Inscribed ’18th 7 20. Nov. 1865. 3.30′. Watercolour over pencil. 29.5 x 49 cm. (11 3/4 x 19 1/4 in.)

The present watercolour dates from Lear’s second trip to Venice in November 1865. He first visited the city in 1857, but returned eight years later on his way to Malta to make studies for an oil painting which had been commissioned by Lady Waldegrave. Lear went out onto the water, painting the Venetian landscape from a gondola.
‘Anything so indescribably beautiful as the colour of this place I never saw.’
Lear’s diary, 16th November 1865, quoted in Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear-The Life of a Wanderer1985, p.116.


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Edward Lear, Nemertska from Kouzza, Albania (1857)


Edward Lear, Nemertska from Kouzza, Albania.
Dated ’15 April 1857′ l.l. and inscribed extensively. Ink and watercolour. 32.4 x 52.1 cm. (12¾ x 20½ in.)

Lady Shaw;
Thence by descent.

Lady Shaw met Lear in Corfu and later acquired this watercolour in London.
Lear first visited Albania in 1848 and recorded his visit in Journals of a Landscape painter in Greece and Albania (1951). He returned in April 1857 to visit the Greek mountain region of Epirus and the villages above the River Vikos, a place he missed on his first trip.


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