Edward Lear, Andora, Italy (1864)

Andora, Italy. Inscribed and dated ‘Andora/28 December 1864/11 AM’ (lower right) and inscribed again and dated ‘Andora/11 30 AM/28 December 1864’ (lower left) and numbered ‘(109)’ (lower left) and further inscribed with color notes.
Pencil, pen and brown ink, watercolor.
14 1/8 x 20½ in. (35.9 x 52.2 cm.).

Lear left England in November 1864, to spend the winter in the Riviera. Shortly after his arrival he settled down to draw 240 ‘Tyrants’, this task left him exhausted and he decided to spend a few weeks walking along the coast.

At the end of November he set off with his servant Giorgio to walk to Genoa; they walked between sixteen and twenty miles a day, returning to Nice on New Year’s Eve with 145 drawings. As he wrote to William Holman Hunt from the Promenade des Anglais on 7 January 1865, ‘One of my aims this winter was to ‘get’ all the Corniche or Riviera di Ponente; .. that I have done both ways with 145 sketches & better health than before – also less abdomen’. These sketches he ‘penned out’ in the evenings for his possible, but never realised, book (V. Noakes, ed., Edward Lear, Selected Letters, Oxford, 1988, pp. 202-3).

Lear’s technique would be to make a quick pencil sketch with color notations. Back in his studio – or even in his tent later that evening if he was on a long walking trip – he would have ‘penned out’ the composition. That is, he would go over his pencil lines and even his color notations in pen and ink, and fill in the composition with watercolor following his notes. These ‘penned out’ drawings were not meant to be exhibited or sold, but were rather the basis for watercolors commissioned by Lear’s patrons who would visit his studio and choose from among a group of them. Indeed, it was not until 1929, when two large collections belonging to the descendants of Lord Northbrook and Franklin Lushington came up for sale, that this aspect of Lear’s oeuvre became known to the general public.


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2 Responses to Edward Lear, Andora, Italy (1864)

  1. I did a Radio 4 play about Lear in Italy. THE NEED FOR NONSENSE, with Andrew Sachs playing Lear and Alexi Kaye-Campbell playing Giorgio. Broadcast in 2010 and repeated in 2011. You can hear it on my website :www. Julia Blackburn.com

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