Edward Lear, Venice, looking towards San Giorgio Maggiore

Edward Lear, Venice, looking towards San Giorgio Maggiore.
Inscribed, dated and numbered ’18 – 20. Novr 1865. 3.30-4.30.PM./(43)’ (lower right). Pen, ink and watercolour over traces of pencil, 30 x 49.5cm (11 13/16 x 19 1/2in).

Private collection, UK.

Got a gondola for the day … it was very cold … bright gorgeous – but cold weather.
(Edward Lear diaries, 13-16 November 1865).

The present watercolour dates from Lear’s second trip to Venice in November 1865. Lear first visited the city in 1857, returning eight years later on his way to Malta, to make studies for an oil painting which had been commissioned by Lady Waldegrave, one of his most loyal patrons. Lear went out onto the lagoon in a gondola, producing a series of studies of the city’s famous landmarks: see for example Sotheby’s, London, 3 July 2013, lot 184, Christie’s, London, 5 July 2016, lot 121, and Venice 13 November 1865, (private collection, illustrated in Vivien Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, Newton Abbot, p. 87).

In the present lot, as with others of this series, Lear uses tight hatching lines in sepia ink to depict the landmarks, contrasted with freer areas of wash to portray the sky. As Noakes comments, ‘In much of the work he did in Venice, Lear worked directly in often quite wet watercolour, laying in flowing washes which most accurately captures the shifting colour and light of the canal scenery’1.

1 Vivien Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, Newton Abbot, p. 87.


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