Edward Lear, Nave of Arundel Church


“Nave of Arundel Church,” from M.A. Tierney, The History and Antiquities of the Castle and Town of Arundel: Including the Biography of Its Earls, from the Conquest to the Present Time. London: G. And W. Nicol, 1834. Volume 2, facing p. 743.

This is perhaps Edward Lear’s first published non-zoological illustration; he must have made it during one of his frequent visits to Arundel, where his sister Sarah had married and where he met some of his first supporters.

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Edward Lear, Stylida (1848)


Edward Lear, Stylida, Greece.

Inscribed and dated twice ‘Stylida/26.June.1848’ (lower left and in pencil lower right), also inscribed ‘(84)’ (lower right) with further annotations throughout. Pen and ink and watercolour. 14 x 23.2cm (5 1/2 x 9 1/8in).

Lieutenant Colonel C.J.B. Church

Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, Edward Lear, July 1964, no. 84.

Lt. Col. Church was the grandson of Charles Marcus Church who was Edward Lear’s companion during his earliest travels in Greece in 1848. The two men remained friends until Lear’s death in 1888. Upon his death, Lear bequeathed Charles Church more than 100 sketches made in Greece while they were together.


Edward Lear’s diary of the journey in Greece with Church.

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Edward Lear, Cannes and the Esterel Mountains (1865)


Edward Lear, Cannes and the Esterel Mountains, France.
Watercolor with pen and brown ink over traces of pencil; inscribed lower left: Cannes. 8 April 8am 1865, extensively inscribed with color notes. 355 by 555 mm; 13 7/8  by 21 7/8  in.

Lear drew this large-scale and very fine view of Cannes on the morning of 8 April 1865, towards the end of an extended stay in the south of France. He was primarily there to build a body of work for an exhibition that he intended to hold in London later in the year. He based himself at Nice and from there he visited the local towns along the coast. Lear must have found Cannes particularly inspirational for alongside drawing the port and its environs, he also penned his nonsense poems The History of the Seven Families of the Lake of Pipple-Popple.1

1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, London 1985, p. 172

A. Davidson;
with Agnew’s, London, by 1973;
J.J. Carteer, Paris


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Edward Lear, The Plains of Bethany


Edward Lear, The Plains of Bethany.
Signed with monogram (lower left). Oil on canvas. 9 ½ x 18 3/8 in. (24.1 x 47.6 cm.)

Jerusalem, with its powerful biblical associations, was the goal of many artist-travellers to the Near East in the 19th Century. Edward Lear, aware of the particular veneration in which the city was held, wrote as early as 1848 of his desire to visit the Holy Land: ‘How I wish someone would pay my way to Palestine; I should like to see Jerusalem of all things’. After two earlier attempts had failed, his journey was eventually enabled by a commission from Lady Waldegrave, one of the most loyal of his patrons. He reached Jerusalem on 27 March 1858, and the next day, Palm Sunday, explored the country immediately outside the walls. The city was crowded with Easter pilgrims however, and he decided to continue his journey south to Petra.

The little village of Bethany lay on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, reputedly the Biblical site of the Tomb of Lazarus, and is now the village of Al-Azariyeh. Lear wrote to Lady Waldegrave about his travels out of Jerusalem: ‘Every path leads you to a fresh thought: – this takes you to Bethany, lovely now as it ever must have been: quiet, still little nook of valley scenery. There is Rephaïm & you see the Philistines crowding over the great plain – Down that ravine you go to Jericho: from that point you see the Jordan and Gilead…I cannot conceive any place on Earth like Jerusalem for astonishing and yet unfailing mines of interest’ (27 May 1858, cited in Lady Strachey, Letters of Edward Lear, London, 1907, p. 107).

This painting, believed to have been executed in 1879, is based on a watercolour sold in these Rooms on 17 November 1992 (lot 104), which is inscribed ‘Bethany/Edward Lear: del. 1858.’ and is dedicated to ‘Miss Baring. Stratton Hall. Mitcheldever. Hants.’ It had passed down by descent to Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook. A larger version of the drawing, without the figures (12¾ x 20in. and inscribed ‘Bethany 25 of April./1858’), was sold in these Rooms on 10 July 1984 (lot 280) as having been in the collection of Franklin Lushington.

The painting is known to have been in the collection of James Parker who, for nearly fifty years, was Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, having previously worked at the Louvre, Paris, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. He bequeathed it to Marvin Schwartz, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Brooklyn Museum, later consultant tat the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who originated the weekly ‘Antiques’ column in The New York Times.

We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.


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Edward Lear, The Forest of Bavella


Edward Lear, The Forest of Bavella.
Oil on canvas. 57 ½ by 94 ½ in. (146 x 240 cm.), circa 1878-1888.

This monumental view of the pine forest of Bavella, in southern Corsica, is the largest of three known oil paintings that Lear executed of the forest following his expedition to the island during the winter of 1867-68. It illustrates Lear’s unparalleled skill at capturing a sense of grandeur and an epic depth of scale. The drama of the scene created by the imposing pine trees, the cavernous ravine in the centre, and the jagged mountains beyond, is heightened by a sense of tranquillity; only the sound of the falling water breaks the stillness. Using a combination of vivid, quickly-applied brushstrokes with carefully delineated details, Lear demonstrates his supremacy as a topographical draughtsman; despite the separate planes and topographies, he creates an image which is a unified and harmonious whole, both powerful and thrilling. Jeremy Maas wrote that ‘Lear’s genius expressed itself through an improbable fusion of seeming incompatibles into a glorious alchemy: he could paint sublimely romantic landscapes where Western man had scarcely set foot, write travel books, compose Nonsense verse and make Nonsense drawings – all in unstinting, unflagging profusion’ (V. Noakes, ed., Edward Lear 1812-1888, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London, 1985, p. 18).

Lear spent the winter of 1867-68 in Cannes, before leaving for Corsica at the beginning of April 1868. He arrived in Ajaccio on the south-west coast and travelled inland reaching the Forest of Bavella on 28 April. The landscape enthralled him: ‘The colour here is more beautiful than in most mountain passes I have seen, owing to the great variety of underwood foliage and the thick clothing of herbs; forms, too, of granite rocks seem to me more individually interesting than those of other formations; and the singular grace and beauty of the pine-trees has a peculiar charm – their tall stems apparently so slender, and so delicate the proportions of the tuft of foliage crowning them. The whole of this profound gorge, at the very edge of which the road runs, is full of mountain scenes of the utmost splendour, and would furnish pictures by the score to a painter who could remain for a lengthened sojourn’ (E. Lear, Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica, London, 1870, p. 91).

While exploring the island he filled pages of his sketchbooks with views. In the two months he was there, Lear made over three-hundred and fifty drawings, carefully annotated with his highly-recognisable colour suggestions, locations and timings. Bewitched by the view at Bavella Lear extended his time in the forest: ‘As I contemplate the glory of this astonishing amphitheatre, I decide to stay at least another day within its limits, and I confess that a journey to Corsica is worth any amount of expense and trouble, if but to look on this scene alone’ (ibid., p. 92).

This painting relates to a pen and ink sketch, presumably based upon an en plein air drawing from his Corsican sketchbooks, which formed part of Lear’s scheme of 1884-5 to illustrate the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (fig. 1; private collection). He chose this view as a possibility for the line from Tennyson’s Oenone, ‘My tallest pines/My tall dark pines, that plumed the craggy ledge’. The sketch was further worked up into a larger drawing (1884-5, Houghton Library, Harvard University). He had first considered his Tennyson project in 1852, and he began a number of schemes throughout his career in varying sizes and mediums.

The three known pictures in oil of the Bavella forest that Lear executed after his Corsican tour are: this painting; The Forest of Bavella, Corsica, 1868, oil on canvas, 36 x 58 in. (private collection); and The Pine Forest of Bavella, oil on canvas, 6 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (private collection). The second of these, painted in the same year as his Corsican tour, illustrates the forest through a more schematic composition, showing a group of travellers on a wide granite ledge in the foreground, gazing out over a dense swathe of dark pine trees towards the jagged mountains on the horizon beyond. The removal of the idealised figures in the present painting, combined with Lear’s highly-dramatic and more carefully-constructed composition, creates a greater sense of power and monumentality.

During his time in Corsica Lear also kept a detailed journal to be published with accompanying illustrations on his return. This followed a series of publications including details of his tours of Italy, Albania and the Ionian Islands. Published in December 1869, it features forty full-page illustrates, forty vignettes and a detailed map of the island, and is ‘the most efficiently written [of his travel books], and it is still an excellent guide to that island’ (P. Levi, Edward Lear: A Biography, London, 1995, p. 227).

In a letter to Lord Carlingford of 4 June 1884 he noted that ‘In the meantime I rise now at 4.30, and after 6, work at the never finished Athos, and the equally big Bavella’ (Lady Strachey,(ed., Later Letters of Edward Lear, London, 1911, p. 309). This statement supports the idea that the painting remained in the artist’s studio until after his death after which it is believed to have been acquired by the 15th Earl of Derby. The Earls of Derby of Knowsley Hall, just outside Liverpool, were Lear’s first major patrons. Lear met Lord Stanley, later 13th Earl of Derby, in 1831 when Lear was 20 years old when he invited the young artist to Knowsley Hall to record the magnificent collection of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish kept in his menagerie. In a later letter to Lord Avebury Lear wrote that ‘‘I saw by the papers that you have been staying at Knowsley lately – a place which was my home in past days for many years. I wonder if you saw a lot of my paintings and drawings. Lord Derby is always employing me in one way or another, as did his father, his grandfather, and his greatgrandfather. Fancy having worked for 4 Earls of Derby!’ (Letter, 3 November 1883 cited in ibid., p. 366).

We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.


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Edward Lear’s Arabian Nights


Four volumes of “The Arabian Nights’s Entertainments”, all owned by Edward Lear, bound in original cloth and with black gilt morocco lettered titles to spines. All signed in ink on the title pages “Edward Lear, Sanremo” with additional pen annotation “From R.J. Wyatt Rome 1843”. Cloth slightly sunned and worn at corners and spine ends. Volumes I and IV feature spines partially torn with some losses and joints split. Chipping to spine cloth of volume II. Browning to page edges and foxing to paper in all volumes. Hardback, 8vo, London: Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill, 1835.
Richard James Wyatt was an English sculptor and pupil of Antonio Canova. He spent the majority of his life in Rome and achieved a great popularity for his Neo-classical sculptures. Lear made the acquaintance of Wyatt in Rome, where he was part of the colony of English artists in the city between the late 1830s and early 1940s. The English illustrator settled in San Remo in 1870.






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Edward Lear, Tower at Boppard on the Rhine (1838)


Edward Lear, Tower at Boppard on the Rhine.

Black chalk, heightened with white, on light blue-grey paper. Signed and dated 1838 lower right. Inscribed March lower left. 25.5 x 17 cm. (10 x 6 3/4 in).

with The Fine Art Society, London (gallery label on reverse)


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