Edward Lear, Orange Grove, Corfu (1863)

Edward Lear, Orange grove, Corfu.
Inscribed and dated ‘Corfu/March.30.1863/Φλαρέλλο./oranges-far-gleam like fireflies/in the shade.’ (lower left); annotated throughout. Pen, ink and watercolour, 31.8 x 49.3cm (12 1/2 x 19 7/16in).

Private collection, UK.

Oranges – far – gleam like fireflies in the shade.
(Edward Lear, 1863)

Edward Lear travelled extensively throughout his life, visiting a variety of places, including Italy, Albania, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, India, Greece, Switzerland, Adriatic Sea, Southern France, Malta and Turkey.

Lear first visited Greece in 1848, and during the many years spent there he learnt the language and embraced the culture. His captivation with the country – the beauty, the multitude of colour and shapes, and the hospitality – is explored in his numerous drawings of the landscape and in his detailed letters and diaries.

The present lot, a vibrant depiction of Corfu, was executed on 30 March 1863. In his diary, Lear describes his movements that day and shows enthusiasm for the beauty of Corfu, despite an ‘awful’ sleep; he writes ‘Paradise weather…riz at 8. Man came & packed – or rather put lid on case. Went to Taylors ―: saw Clark & Mrs. Boyd. Called on the 6th ― very pleasant: & found a real grand view of Salvador: ― lunching with Capt. Philipps & Moreland.’

Lear began to draw at 3pm, noting ‘went to the Orange groves below to Cannone round ― & drew till nearly 6. It is not possible to give the brown glory of these woods ― in words ― & the gold sparkle of the fruit. The people were very amiable & nice: a small child ― τὸ παχὺ [the fat one] ― amused me.’

Particularly pertinent to the present lot, Lear writes in a letter to Mrs Beadon, of the beauty and awe-inspiring colours of the island : ‘yet the more I see of this place, so the more I feel that no other spot on earth can be full of beauty & of variety of beauty. For you may pass your days by gigantic cliffs with breaking foam=waves below them ― (as at [Palaiocastrizza],) ― or on hills which overlook long seas of foliage backed by snow covered mountain ridges ― (as at Janina or Gastouri,) or beneath vast olives over branching dells full of fern & Myrtle & soft green fields of bright grass: or in gardens & dark with orange & lemon groves, their fruits sparkling golden yellow against the purple sea & amethyst hills ―― or by a calm sandy shore below aloe=grown [cliff heights]― rippling=sparkling curves of sea sounding gently around all day long.’


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