Edward Lear, Fishermen’s Houses on the Bosphorus (1848)

Fishermen’s houses on the Bosphorus (recto); A seated figure gazing at a low horizon (verso), signed and dated ‘E. Lear. del./1848.’ (lower right) and inscribed ‘Bosforo’ (lower left).
Pen and brown ink, watercolor, heightened with white (recto), pencil (verso)
4 1/8 x 8 3/8 in. (10.3 x 21.4 cm.).

In the spring of 1848 Lear left Rome. After sailing to Corfu and then to Athens he reached Constantinople at sunrise on 1 August. He then fell ill and was cared for by Lady Canning in the British Ambassador’s summer residence at Therapia, finally settling at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Pera, the European quarter of Istanbul, on 1 September. He used the hotel as a base for exploring the city and the Bosphorus and for buying silks and exotic local delicacies. (For Lear’s sojourn in Constantinople, see S. Hyman, Edward Lear in the Levant, London, 1988, pp. 54-62).

During the late 1840s Lear’s style was evolving from the meticulously topographical and essentially monochromatic pencil drawing of his early years to a slightly looser, more atmospheric manner enhanced by the use of watercolor. As with his early drawings however, Lear made his sketches in situ and then added the watercolor later. In the present drawing, the single date of 1848 in the lower right corner indicates that Lear probably made this watercolor not too long after his preliminary sketch and while he was still in Constantinople.


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