Edward Lear, Corfu (1856)


Edward Lear, Corfu.
Signed, inscribed and dated ‘Corfu/ELear./1856′ (lower right). Oil on canvas. 26.5 x 49.5cm (10 7/16 x 19 1/2in).

The present lot shows a distant view of the citadel at Corfu, with the Albanian mountains beyond. Painted from a high position, near the village of Ascension, the composition is typical of the oils and watercolours Lear produced during this period (for example Corfu from the village of Ascension and Corfu from the Benitza Road, on the hill of Gastouri, 1862, Christie’s, London, 15 December 15, 2011, lot 59, and Corfu from the Hill of Gastouri, 1857-58, Christie’s, London, 12 December, 2007, lot 61).

Lear first visited Corfu in 1848, arriving by boat from Naples, and was immediately entranced by it, revealing in a letter to his sister ‘it really is a Paradise’. Lear later wrote that ‘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 Straights, with the great Albanian mountains beyond.’

Lear returned to Corfu in December 1855, settling there until 1863, when many British residents left the island with the transfer of sovereignty to Greece. He returned again in 1877.

For a similar composition, painted in watercolour, see Edward Lear: An exhibition of works from the Dayton International Collection, Sotheby’s London, 22-26 March 2004, exhibition catalogue, no.10, illustrated p.22.


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