Reviews of the Ikon Exhibition: Edward Lear Moment by Moment

I’m starting a tour of Wales &c. today and will be away for a couple of weeks, but I want to recommend again the Ikon exhibition in Birmingham, and in particular the great catalogue, with essays by Matthew Bevis, Jenny Uglow, Adam Phillips, Hugh Haughton and Stephen Duckworth; don’t miss it if you go, or order it from the bookshop.

The Guardian.

Apollo: The International Art Magazine.


The Spectator.


Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Edward Lear, Civita d’Antino (1844)

Edward Lear, Civita d’Antino
Pencil, chalk and white heightening. Signed, inscribed and dated, 1844. 6.5×11.25 inches. Framed: 15.5×19 inches.

Edward Lear, ‘Excursions in Italy’, 1846, plate 20.

John Scandrett Harford (1787-1866), who first met Lear in Italy in 1846.

Abbott and Holder.

Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

On Lear’s Rebus (again)

Hayley Gold (@hayleyrabbit) – a sample of her artwork is here above while her books are available here – and I are unconvinced  by the seller’s interpretation of the Edward Lear rebus I posted some time ago and have been trying to find a different solution for some time, but without great success. I am therefore reposting it asking for my readers’ help, if they are any better than I am at this sort of thing.

The fact is the sentence resulting from the gallerist’s interpretation does not make much sense, or it is too contorted for what it purports to say; anyway, here is the current solution explained to the best of our understanding:

Bull’s eye = “I”
Pile of wood = “would”
Bee = “be”
Haystack = “a”.  This one is frankly unconvincing, what is the ladder doing there, such a complex word for an article? [perhaps only “hay” with wrong aitch, that Lear found so oppressing].
Grate = “great”
R R (2Rs) = “arse”. Not likely, Lear, I think, would have drawn an ass.
Inn = “in”
Manuscript = “writing”
Shoe + D = “should”
Eye = “I”
Knot = “not” [couldn’t it be a Ribbon?]
Hat = “at-” [see note on “hay” above + Taking aim = “aim” + T = “attempt” [?!]
2 = “to”
People Fording a stream = “afford” [where does “af-” come from? “a ford” I suppose]
Hook to Catch fish = “catch”
The = “the”
Muse = “Muse”.

Which makes it “I would be a great arse in writing should I not attempt to afford to catch the Muse.”

Are there any experts in rebuses out there that can help us find a better solution? Please let us know.

Posted in Edward Lear | Leave a comment

Music from Edward Lear’s Works

I have started revising the page on Recording of Edward Lear Poems inserting links to the pieces available on Tidal and/or Spotify (of course they may be available on other services too). Here is a just-published CD which includes the first complete recordings of Stanford’s Nonsense Rhymes, composed, under the pseudonym of Karel Drofnatski, on poems by Lear:

Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers. “Nonsense Rhymes nos. 1-14.” Songs of Faith, Love and Nonsense. Ed. Roderick Williams, baritone; James Way, tenor; Andrew West, piano: SOMMCD 0627, 2021.

Previously on the Blog of Bosh: Who is Karel Drofnatsky?
From a review from Limelight:

Best of all are the delightful Nonsense Rhymes, settings over the years of limericks by Edward Lear with which the composer would regale his friends at private soirees. Stanford, it’s clear, was both a compositional dictionary and a ready wit. Musical jokes can fall flat but not here. Listen to how subtly he pastiches Grieg in The Hardy Norsewoman (“There was a Young Lady of Norway, who casually sat in a doorway”); or Beethoven’s Pastoral in The Cow and the Coward. I love the Richard Strauss send ups in Gongdicthung (“There was an Old Man with a gong, who bumped at it all the day long”). Equally brilliant is A Visit of Elizabeth (“There was a Young Lady of Joppa, who came a society cropper. One day with a friend, she went off to Ostend, and the rest of the story’s improper,” in which Stanford sets the text to the Prelude from Tristan before bringing in the ‘improper’ Venusburg music from Tannhäuser. Williams and Way have a ball and listeners should too since spotting the quotes is great fun!

Mathias, William. “Learsongs.” Choral Music. Naxos B081KRDQQF, 2020.

Learsongs: No. 1, Calico Pie.
Learsongs: No. 2, The Owl and the Pussycat.
Learsongs: No. 3, The Duck and the Kangaroo.
Learsongs: No. 4, Uncle Arly.
Learsongs: No. 5, The Pelican Chorus.


Somers, Harry. “Birminal Trilogy.” Singing Somers Theatre. Russell Hartenberger (percussion), Monica Whicher (soprano), Robert Cram (flute), Ryan Scott (percussion), John Hess (piano), Krisztina Szabo (mezzo-soprano), Michael Colvin (tenor), Julian Armour (cello), Andrew Tunis (piano), Kimberley Briggs (soprano), Tanya Turner (vocals), Barbara Chilcott (narrator), David Dunbar (narrator), Charles Fowler (vocals), Sung Chung (vocals): Centrediscs CMCCD6901, 2012.

No. 1. The Owl and the Pussycat.
No. 2. Pelican Chorus.
No. 3. Abstemious Asses, Zealous Zebras and others.

Ford, Andrew. There was a man lived in the moon : nursery rhymes and children’s songs / traditional tunes arranged by Andrew Ford ; performed by Jane Sheldon and Teddy Tahu Rhodes. ABC Classics 4812235, 2015.

Nonsense 1. The Owl and the Pussycat.
Nonsense 2. The Quangle Wangle’s Hat.
Nonsense3. The Jumblies.

Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Edward Lear, Pietra Secca (1844)

Edward Lear, Pietra Secca (erroneously titled “Pietra Sella” in the auction page).
Signed and dated ‘E Lear 1844’ l.r. and inscribed with title l.l., pencil and charcoal  heightened with white 17 x 12cm Provenance: The Estate of Sir Jack and Lady Baer.


Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Symposium: Edward Lear in the Round Now Online (timing)

If, like me, you only managed to see part of the symposium on Edward Lear in the Round and are a bit overwhelmed by its six and a half hours,maybe you will find my timing breakup of the schedule useful.

Welcome: Jonathan Watkins and Linzi Stauvers                          00:4:06
Matthew Bevis – Edward Lear’s Moment                                       00:08-15

Session 1
Chair: Jonathan Watkins                                                                    00:45:52
Jenny Uglow – The Edge of the Sand: Liminal Lear                     00:49:34
Kate Nichols – Lear Ruins                                                                  01:09:22
Jasmine Jagger – Moving Lines: Lear’s Tennysoniana                01:43:20
Audience Q&A 02:11:08

Lunch (nothing happens here)                                                            02:31:15-03:31:15

Session 2
Chair: Linzi Stauvers                                                                             03:31:44
Cassie Westwood – How Not to Know Mr Lear                              03:32:45
Noreen Masud – Lear’s Distracted Landscapes                              04:00:50

Break (nothing happens here)                                                             04:29:04-04:47:37

Session 3
Chair: Matthew Bevis                                                                            04:47:38
Sara Lodge – Edward Lear and Animation                                      04:48:50
James Williams – Edward Lear in the Mountains                         05:24:12
Audience Q&A                                                                                        05:56:10

Closing session: Matthew Bevis and Jonathan Watkins               06:18:40

Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Edward Lear, The Black Mountain, Cephalonia (1863)

Edward Lear, The Black Mountain, Cephalonia
Signed, inscribed and dated ‘Black Mountain/16 May 1863/6.30a.m. 168’ l.r., pen and ink and watercolour 32 x 48cm.


Also see: 1, 2.

Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Edward Lear Symposium at Ikon Gallery

It has now been confirmed that the symposium will be streamed on YouTube. The link is already active and displays a countdown to the start of  the stream. You now have no excuse to miss it, even if you are not in the area.

Download the brochure with the schedule and speaker biographies.

Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Edward Lear: Moment to Moment Exhibition and Symposiom

Just a quick reminder that the exhibition Edward Lear: Moment to Moment, at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham will be opening next Saturday, 9 October.

In addition, on Monday, 12 September, there will be a symposium: Edward Lear in the Round.
Speakers include Matthew Bevis (Professor of English Literature, Oxford University), Jasmine Jagger (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of English and Creative Writing, University of Roehampton), Sara Lodge (Senior Lecturer in English, University of St Andrews), Noreen Masud (Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature, University of Bristol), Kate Nichols (Birmingham Fellow in British Art, University of Birmingham), Linzi Stauvers (Head of Learning, Ikon Gallery), Jenny Uglow (Author of Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense (2018)), Jonathan Watkins (Director, Ikon Gallery), Cassie Westwood (Independent scholar) and James Williams (Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of York).

Posted in Edward Lear | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Thurber on Lear’s Influence on his Work


THURBER, JAMES. 1894-1961. Typed Letter Signed (“James Thurber”), to Angus Davidson who is preparing a biography on Edward Lear, 2 pp, 4to, n.p., July 7, 1937, toning to both leaves, both leaves laid down to larger board with stains from adhesives.

Thurber writes the author of Edward Lear: Landscape Painter and Nonsense Poet (1938), responding to a query about whether or not Lear’s comedy has influenced him. In part: “I am ashamed to admit that I was not brought up on his writings or drawings, an educational omission which I will never forgive my parents. I began to draw, much the same was as I do now, about 1917, when I was twenty-three years old … I did not see the drawings of Clarence Day until after my pictures began to appear in the New Yorker … I think the drawings of men who cannot really draw—that is, who are not great or natural draughtsmen—are bound to have a similarity, just as the drawings of children invariable have: a simplicity, a directness, a naivete which eludes the easy and practiced hand.”


July 7

Dear Mr. Davidson:

I hope you will excuse a delay in answering your letter which was really unavoidable. I sailed for France on May 14, was lost to the mails for weeks, and only received your letter a few days ago, shortly after arriving in London.

As for Edward Lear, I am ashamed to admit that I was not brought up on his writings or drawings, an educational omission which I will never forgive my parents. I began to draw, much the same way as I do now, about 1917, when I was twenty-three years old. Naturally, there has been a development, but in the main the line is the same and for it I did not have any influence at all of which I am conscious. I did not see the drawings of Clarence Day until after my pictures began to appear in the New Yorker. There is a charming story about that. It seems a friend of Day’s, coming upon some of my drawings, rushed them to his bedside – he was bedbound for fifteen years – and said, “Look at this plagiarizer!” Day looked and said, I am told, “No. He has something I haven’t got.” Certainly I should put it the other way around, but I mention it as an interesting sidelight on an unusual artist and a lovable person.

I think the drawings of men who cannot really draw – that is, who are not great or natural draughtsmen – are bound to have a similarity, just as the drawings of children invariably have – just as the writings of children always have: a simplicity, a directness, a naivete which eludes the easy and practised hand.

I have, of course, known Lear now for a long time, and just the other weekend spent a delightful afternoon going over practically all of his things with Edward ˇ[(David)] Garnett and his children. Lear, I have found, is as well known to ˇ[most] children in the Eastern part of the United States as Carroll, but I come from the Middle West, a benighted section, and was brought up on American comic strips.* Even so, many of the limericks I knew as a child – without the drawing, though. They had just been passed around from mouth to mouth.

I should think it would be a great pleasure to work on a life of Lear, and I am sure the book will be greatly valued.

I am glad that you find pleasure in my work (although it’s really fun) and I thank you for saying so.

Sincerely yours.
James Thurber

* I do not believe there was any influence on my drawings in these comic strips. I just began to draw, idly, almost without thinking, certainly without any plan at all, for fun. I had never had the vaguest idea of having the drawings published. Some were found on my desk at the New Yorker, by E.B. White, a friend and another New Yorker editor, in 1929, and they first appeared in a book we did together called “Is Sex Necessary?” It had an unusual success – drawings and all – to our infinite surprise, and the New Yorker began publishing them – new ones, whenever I did them. It is still a little hard for me to realize that they have gained any recognition at all, as I count myself a writer, who draws for relaxation, as one plays ping pong, lights a pipe, or plays cards. The show of my drawings in London was a great success and I am still – and always will be – somewhat amazed by that.

Posted in Comics, Edward Lear, James Thurber | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment