Edward Lear, Premeti, Albania (1858)

Edward Lear, Premeti, Albania.
Inscribed ‘Premeti’ (in Greek) and dated ’17. April. 1857.’ (lower left) and extensively inscribed with color notes. Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolor. 11 7/8 x 20 ½ in. (30.5 x 51 cm).

In 1857 Lear was living and working on the Greek island of Crete. In April he undertook a journey to the mainland, spending three weeks exploring northern Greece and southern Albania. He spent three days following the River Viosje from Konitsa to Tepelene, reaching Premeti, or Përmet, just over the Albanian border on 17 April. Lear wrote to his sister Ann on 23 April: ‘The walk of the 17th by the side of the Viosa was magnificent…’, and he made several drawings of the area.
In the mid-19th Century Albania was a territory relatively unexplored by Englishmen, and Lear found it provided a wealth of subject matter: ‘You have that which is found neither in Greece nor in Italy, a profusion everywhere of the most magnificent foliage recalling the greenness of our own island…You have majestic cliff-girt shores; castle-crowned heights, and gloomy forests; palaces glittering with gilding and paint; mountain passes such as you encounter in the snowy regions in Switzerland…and with all this a crowded variety of costume and pictorial incident such as bewilders and delights an artist at each step he takes’ (V. Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, London, 1991, p. 52). The present drawing depicts the famous stone of the city, and the arched bridge across the river which has now been demolished.


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