Edward Lear, Ithaca


Edward Lear, Ithaca.
Inscribed and dated ‘Ithaca/30.April. 1863/4.30. P.M.’ and further inscribed in Greek (lower left) and numbered ‘(105)’ (lower right) and extensively inscribed with color notes. Pencil, pen and black ink and watercolor. 14¼ x 20½ in. (36.2 x 52.1 cm.)

Lear had long been drawn to the idea of visiting Greece, with its ancient history and spacious landscapes. As a boy in the 1820s Lear had followed the Greek struggle for freedom from Turkish control. He was to make his first trip to Greece in 1848. Lear returned to Corfu for the summer of 1857 and again for the winters of 1858-59, 1861 and 1862-3 and the island was to provide him with the nearest he got to a winter base until finally settling in San Remo in 1870. During these visits, Lear also explored the other Ionian islands twice, once in 1848 and again between March and June in 1863 after which he returned to England. The latter trip was undertaken in the knowledge that the British were undertaking negotiations to hand over rule to the Greeks which would bring Lear’s time in the Ionian islands to a close. The result of this final Spring tour was another volume of lithographic views, Views of the Seven Ionian Islands, published in 1863.

Lear visited Ithaca from 26 April until 1 May 1863. It is famous as the island of Odysseus, and when Byron visited the island in August 1823 he found it so beautiful that he considered buying it and living there permanently. Lear also thought it was a magical place, writing on 27 April of the ‘pretty prettiness of Ithaca’ and on 29 April: ‘Truly — a very queer magical sight is this view! Dreamlike in its wan delicate pallor — all the gray [sic] sea so far below motionless as a surface of polished marble.’


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