Edward Lear, View of Genoa.
Pen and brown ink and brown, pink and blue wash.
23 Decenmber 1864.
The Delineator, February 1918, p. 33.
Edward Lear, Cannes.
Inscribed and dated ‘Cannes./ 3.30. P.M./ 10 April. 1865.’ (lower left) and numbered ‘135’ (lower right, and further inscribed in Greek and with colour notes). Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour. 6 7/8 x 21 ¼ in. (17.5 x 54 cm.)
With Agnew’s, London, where purchased for the present collection (NINA R. AND ARTHUR A. HOUGHTON, JR.).
Edward Lear, Rabbato, Gozo, Malta.
Dated ‘5.30 P.M. March 20. 1866.’ and numbered ‘203’ (lower right) and extensively . Inscribed with colour notes throughout. Pen and brown ink and pink, green and ochre wash heightened with white on grey paper. 7 1/8 x 20 ¾ in. (18 x 52.8 cm.)
Edward Lear, Cannes.
Inscribed and dated ‘Cannes./5.4.5 PM. 8 April 1865 Isle Ste. Marguerite’ (lower left) and numbered (‘115’) (lower right), and further inscribed with the artist’s colour notes. Pen and brown ink and watercolour, heightened with white on blue paper. 6 1/8 x 19 5/8 in. (15.6 x 50 cm.)
Edward Lear, Argostoli and the Black Mountain, Cephalonia.
Inscribed, numbered and dated ‘Argostoli [in Greek]. (129)/May 5. 1863.’ (lower right) and extensively inscribed with colour notes. Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour. 12 7/8 x 19 ¾ in. (32.8 x 50.3 cm.)
Gilbert Davis (L. 757a).
William Cavendish Bentinck, 9th Duke of Portland and by descent to
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, New York, 30 January 2014, lot 72.
Edward Lear, The Monastery of St Nilus, Mount Athos.
Inscribed in Greek ‘Ayios Nilos’ and inscribed and dated ‘Athos./ 7.Sept.1856.’ (lower right) and further inscribed with colour notes. Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour. 14 x 20 ¾ in. (35.6 x 52.7 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London,13 July 1989, lot 217.
with Agnew’s, London, where purchased for the present collection.
Edward Lear was always in contact with naturalists, especially as a young ornithological illustrator. He certainly provided illustrations for The Zoology of Captain Beechey’s Voyage (1839) and may have had a part in the production of Charles Darwin’s Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle; Robert Peck (The Natural History of Edward Lear, p. 15) writes: “Whether or not he helped Gould, and his wife, Elizabeth, create some of the illustrations for Charles Darwin’s report on the birds seen during the voyage of HMS Beagle, is unclear, but he was certainly close at hand during that exciting time…”
The Darwin family very probably was familiar with Lear’s nonsensical works, as a letter 28 September 1874 from one of Charles’s sons, Leonard Darwin (1850-1943), to his mother Emma demonstrates:
The preparations for lunch now necessitate another turn on deck At lunch the general wish is to eat as little as possible, as dinner at four comes so soon after it. —an arrangement of meals which the captain says kills the day I think it kills it too much. Crawford is the wit of the party, and generally keeps us laughing; I expect it does not take a big joke to kill here but I think he is really very amusing. Between lunch and dinner I read my Mill which is progressing slowly. After dinner some light book, a pipe, and about the 50th. turn on decks does away with the time till tea, at 7. After tea I never attempt to read, it is so delightfully cool on deck. and rather the reverse below. At 8 o’clock we begin a religious game of whist; then a final turn on deck and so to bed. Yesterday I went aloft for the first time it is rather a scrubious sensation at first; not that I felt giddy actually but only a trifle unhappy What strikes one most is how little the ship below looks, and what a wonder it is that it is not blown flat over. I went on the top gallant yard to look for Madeira, but it was too soon to see it. It is quite beautiful to see the ship cutting through the waves from above; there was not a cloud in the sky and the water was most wonderfully blue.
The word “scrubious” is of course a variant on Lear’s invention of “scroobious” and the way Leonard uses it makes clear that he expected his mother, and probably the whole family, would understand what he was referring to.
Here is the whole annotated text of the letter.
Edward Lear, Near Perivolia, Chania, Crete.
Pencil, pen, ink and watercolour heightened with white. 370 × 540 mm. (14 ⅝ × 21 ¼ in.). Inscribed (in Greek) Perivolia. Chania and dated 11 A.M. 23 April 1864 and numbered (35).
The location of this remarkable watercolour had been unknown until its recent rediscovery. It is recorded as no. 30 – Near Perivolia – 11 a.m. in the list of Cretan drawings made by Lear’s friend and executor, Frank Lushington, now held by the Yale Center for British Art at Yale n the Edward Lear archive.
Lear reached Crete on 11th April 1864, a week after leaving Corfu, his final departure from his island home for the past nine years, brought by the end of British rule and the cession of the Ionian islands to Greece. The voyage via Athens to Crete was uncomfortable which cannot have helped his state of mind, already somewhat depressed by the change of circumstances. Lear recorded each day’s events in his journal, now in the Houghton Library, Harvard.
On 23rd April Lear wrote: “Rose at five. Very lovely and George and I off at six; I in great pain from some unknown cause in left foot – left wrist also very painful. Out of spirits. Hobbled to the streets by the gate and drew a little, so that now I can make a drawing of it. Then by the paved Turkish road, drawing a picturesque tomb, towards the Perivolia villages. Drew below a large olive – at this part of the plain there are really fine trees – the beautiful scene I had marked on the [18th]: foreground a great waving pale green corn meadow, then large olives deep gray beneath the green down-like hills, topped by the snow range. Beyond this, at nine, we threaded through ruined villages – what a state they are in! – hardly seeing a soul, to the west of the plain; but then, missing our way, had to work back till we reached the huge olive boles, whence all the plain is seen, a blaze of colour; the yellow-green of the plain and the frittery bright lemon groves, the darker orange, gray olive, red cliffs, lilac hills and blue sea! Nightingales delighted by singing, orioles and hoopoes by showing themselves…….. Certainly this corner of the plain of Hanià is wonderfully lovely and the lemon groves are positively amazing.”
The present watercolour is of the scene described above, reflecting the bright colouring Lear records. His travels through Crete covered the centre and west of the island, visiting the relatively few known classical sites, which did not at that time include Knossos and Phaestos, yet to be rediscovered. He finally departed Chania on 31st May. Alive to the political problems posed by the Turkish rule and of a population divided between a Greek majority and a mixture of other races, he kept himself at a distance from this as he had in earlier excursions, for instance in Calabria in 1847.