Edward Lear, An Antique British Interior Sketch Signed E.L. Dated Jan 1st 1868.
6.75 x 5.55 inches the sheet.
[I think I should know, but can’t remember what the object on the left is; can anyone remind me? Marco]
Edward Lear, Defile between Jerusalem & Jericho.
Charcoal on paper, c.1837/1838. Inscribed l.l. ‘Defile between Jerusalem & Jericho’ and l.r. ‘EL’, 25.6 x 18.3 cm.
The Little Gallery (5 Kensington Church Walk, London) – sold 5/6/82;
Collection of Miss Gertrude Lushington, daughter of Lear’s executor;
Collection of Dr Edward Brett.
Rev. John Antes Latrobe. Scripture Illustrations; being a series of Engravings on steel and wood. London, 1838. See page 201 for engraving ‘Defile between Jerusalem and Jericho’ that is inscribed to William Harvey.
Vivien Noakes (ed.). Edward Lear 1812-1888. Exhibition Catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts: London, 1985.
Reverend John Antes Latrobe (1799-1878) was the author of ‘Scripture Illustrations’ in 1838 that included various biblical locations. The introduction states that original drawings were made by ‘travellers’ (including Sir Robert Kerr Porter) and then were worked up by the artists William Harvey and Samuel Williams. A work labelled ‘Defile between Jerusalem and Jericho’ looks remarkably similar to our drawing except for the fact that it includes figures. The engraving is inscribed W HARVEY and offers an intriguing link with Lear who worked under Harvey when he was first employed at London Zoo in 1829. In fact, they both worked on the illustrations for a book ‘The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society Delineated’ (1830-31) but only Harvey was credited with the drawings in the publication itself. Since Harvey was the senior artist at this point in Lear’s career this may have also been the case for Latrobe’s 1838 book with Lear not receiving any public recognition.
Harvey may have asked Lear to provide a landscape sketch to fit the description Latrobe asked for and then added the figures himself to depict the story of the Good Samaritan from Saint Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 10. This would explain why Lear’s landscape is not quite the same as the one used for the publication and rules out a direct copy. The other theory is that Lear may have wanted drawings of the Holy Land to take with him for his visit to Palestine in 1858. However, it would have been easier for him to take engravings and David Roberts’ extensive lithographic works on Egypt and the Holy Land were widely available having been released to wide acclaim in the 1840s. Furthermore, Lear was known to have experimented with charcoal early in his career. Vivien Noakes’s 1985 exhibition catalogue (p.93) mentions that ‘Lear’s earliest surviving landscape drawings date from 1834. The vigorous use of soft, dark line and white chalk highlights is characteristic of much of his work until the early 1840s, and shows an awareness of the work of J.D. Harding.’ Therefore, producing the landscape for Harvey’s engraving in 1838 would certainly fit this timeline.
A label next to the picture states that this work was in the collection of ‘Miss Gertrude Lushington, Lear’s executor.’ This intriguing link back to the artist is worth briefly exploring. On a voyage to Malta in the spring of 1849 Lear met Franklin Lushington (1823-1901) who became one of his closest friends. Lushington wrote that ‘I have never known a man who deserved more love for his goodness of heart & his determination to do right; & I don’t think any human being knew him better than I did. There never was a more generous or more unselfish soul’ (Noakes, p. 199). After Lear’s death Lushington was appointed the executor of Lear’s estate. He was left all of the artist’s papers and paintings, and the profit from selling the Villa of Tennyson along with its contents went to Franklin’s eldest daughter, [Louisa] Gertrude.’ Lear was Gertrude’s godfather and wrote ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ for her.