Edward Lear, Distant view of the Citadel from the village of Ascension, Corfu.
Signed with monogram (lower right) and inscribed and dated ‘Corfu. 1856.’ (lower left). Pencil and watercolour heightened with touches of bodycolour. 7 x 14¾ in. (17.8 x 37.5 cm.).
Lear lived on Corfu from 1855 to 1858 following a brief visit to Corfu in the summer of 1848 when he was entranced by the island: ‘I wish I could give you any idea of the beauty of this island, it really is a Paradise. The extreme gardeny verdure – the fine olives, cypresses, almonds, & oranges, make the landscape so rich’. Built by the Venetians who had controlled the island for five hundred years, the Citadel dominated the landscape, creating a focus for the variety of panoramas that Lear developed. A number of his finest paintings illustrate the island’s topography, and many of his drawings were worked up into lithographic plates for his book Views in the Ionian Islands (1863).
The landscape that surrounded the hills of Gastouri and the village of Ascension (now Análipsis), named after the chapel on the hilltop where the Feast of Ascension took place, provided Lear with particularly expansive and breath-taking views down through luscious olive groves, across the water towards the snow-capped mountains of Albania: ‘[N]o place in all the world is so lovely I think. The whole island is in undulations from the plain where the city is, to the higher hills on the west side; & all the space is covered with one immense grove of olive trees – so that you see over a carpet of wood wherever you look; & the higher you go, the more you see, & always the Citadel & the Lake, & then the Straits, with the great Albanian mountains beyond’.
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