Edward Lear, Benares (1873)

Edward Lear, Benares.
Signed with monogram l.l., watercolour over pencil heightened with bodycolour and gum arabic. 25.5 x 40 cm.; 10 x 15 ¾ inches. Date: 1873.

Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, Bt. (1897-1988);
Francis Sitwell (1935-2004);
By descent at Weston Hall, Northamptonshire until 2021.

Lear was invited to India by his friend and patron Lord Northbrook who was appointed Viceroy in 1871, and his journey there was the last and longest of his life. He was overwhelmed by the colour and vitality of India and enjoyed the bustle of Viceregal life. After leaving Lord Northbrook, Benares was one of the first places Lear visited, arriving on 12th December 1873.
Lear describes Benares in his ‘Indian Journal’, on December 13-14 1873, (ed. Ray Murphy, 1953, pp. 45-6):

‘Nothing short of a moving opera scene can give any idea of the intense and wonderful colour and detail of these Benares river banks…
‘Got a boat, a large one, for on one can have the last idea of this Indian city’s splendour without this arrangement. Utterly wonderful is the rainbow-like edging of the water with thousands of bathers reflected in the river. Then the colour of the temples, the strangeness of the huge umbrellas and the inexpressibly multitudinous details of architecture costume etc. Drew, more or less, as I was slowly row’d up and down the river…How well I remember the views of Benares by Daniell, R.A.; pallid, gray, sad solemn. I had always supposed this a place of melancholy or at least a staid and soberly-coloured spot, a gray record of bygone days,. Instead, I find it one of the most abundantly bruyant, and startlingly radiant of places full of bustle and movement. ‘

This drawing used to hang in Sir Sacheverell Sitwell’s study and dressing room at Weston Hall, Northamptonshire, where he did all his writing.

Karen Taylor Fine Art @MasterpieceFair.

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Edward Lear, The Nile at Kasr-Es-Saad

Edward Lear, The Nile at Kasr-Es-Saad, Egypt.
Inscribed and numbered ’23/ Like the crag that fronts the evening’ (upper left) and further inscribed ‘Kasres.Saad. (Egypt.)’ (upper right). Pencil, pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash, lightly squared on paper watermarked ‘JWHATMAN/ 18[?]2’. 13 5⁄8 x 21 1⁄4 in. (34.6 x 54 cm.)

Used to illustrate a line from Alfred Tennyson’s “Eleänore”.

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Edward Lear, Philae (1854)

Edward Lear, Philae, Egypt.
Inscribed and dated ‘Philae. Jany 31. Feby. 4./ 1854.’ and numbered ‘156’ (lower right),  and extensively inscribed with colour notes throughout. Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour. 12 1⁄4 x 19 1⁄2 in. (31.1 x 49.5 cm.)

With Agnew’s, London, where purchased for the present collection.

Lear first journeyed to Egypt in January 1849 but was only able to find time to visit Cairo and the Pyramids. At the end of 1853, however, he arrived in Cairo and immediately accepted an offer to travel up the Nile by boat. On reaching Philae the group set up camp and remained on the island for ten days which Lear spent sketching and recording the temples and the surrounding area. He wrote to his sister Ann, ‘It is impossible to describe the place to you, any further than saying it is more like a real fairy island than anything else I can compare it to. It is very small, & was formerly all covered with temples, of which the ruins of 5 or 6 now only remain. The great T. of Isis, on the terrace of which I now am writing, is so extremely wonderful that no words can give the least idea of it’. Lear was much taken by the scenery and the extraordinary light and colours, and completed at least twenty oil paintings of Philae.


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Edward Lear, Castel Lagopesole (1847)

Edward Lear, Castel Lagopesole, Southern Italy.
Pen and brown ink and watercolour; signed lower right: Edward Lear. del. / 30. Sept. 1847, inscribed lower left: Castello do Lago Pesole. 165 by 282 mm.

This finely preserved work was executed on the 30 September 1847, towards the end of Lear’s six week journey around Calabria in Southern Italy.
Painting with purples, ochers and greens, Lear depicts the expansive landscape towards the end of the day. Castel Lagopesole, a hunting lodge of Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) stands proudly atop the near hill, while in the distance – swathed in mauve – Monte Voltore looms up out of the plain.


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A Set of Edward Lear Drawings for Lizars

The following are on sale on eBay: they are attributed to Edward Lear and were made for publication in William Jardine’s “Naturalist’s Library” printed by William Home Lizars. The ones representing birds are remarkably similar to Lear’s early imaginary birds (also).

Barred-Tailed Pheasant.

Ferruginous Ground Dove.

The ones with butterflies might also be by Edward Lear: here and here.

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A very early Edward Lear Drawing

The date 1822 seems too early for Edward Lear, who was born in 1812, though the signature looks like his (in later years). This in any case is a photograph on sale on eBay and not the original.

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Edward Lear, Taygetus near Mistra (1849)

Edward Lear, Μελάνι και μολύβι σε χαρτί, 157 x 233 mm. Τόπος και χρόνος κάτω αριστερά και κάτω δεξιά: «Taÿgetus / 22 March 1849 / 4 P.M. / (near Mistra?)», αριθμοί κάτω δεξιά: «(62)», «62» και «72». Σε κορνίζα.

[Ink and pencil on paper, 157 x 233 mm. Place and time lower left and lower right: ‘Taÿgetus / 22 March 1849/4 P.M. / (near Mistra?) “, numbers at the bottom right:” (62) “,” 62 “and” 72 “.]


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Edward Lear, Study of a King Vulture (1832)

Edward Lear, Study of a King Vulture.
Signed lower left: “E Lear del.”, dated lower right: “Aril 1832”, and inscribed lower center: “Sarcoramphus papa (Linn. )/ Drawn from life at the/Surrey Zoological Gardens”
Watercolor over pencil heightened with bodycolor and gum arabic. 1832. 10″ x 12 3/4″ sheet, 15 1/4″ x 17 1/4″.

The ornithologist T.H. Newman; By whom given to the Zoological Society of London; Sold through Wheldon and Wesley, 1992; Private Collection.


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Edward Lear, Han Valiarè (1857)

Edward Lear, Han Valiarè.
Title and signature lower right: Ruins of Han Valiere / April 1, 1857. 12,5 x 19,5 cm. Watercolour on paper.

At the Han of Valiare, between Gardiki and Ioannina, 600 people from Gardiki were slaughtered on March 15, 1812 by order of Ali Pasha. It is thought that it was an act of revenge, for the acts of violence committed by the former many years ago against the mother and sister of the pasha.


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Edward Lear, Lugano (1837)

Edward Lear, Lugano.
Inscribed and dated ‘Lugano. 19th. Octobr / 1837.’ (centre left). Pencil heightened with white on buff paper. 9 3⁄8 x 14 1⁄4 in. (23.8 x 36.2 cm.)

Acquired from Thos Agnew & Sons, London, February 1980.

London, Thos Agnew & Sons, 107th Annual Exhibition of Watercolours, no. 164, February 1980.

This lot is part of a group of drawings dating from Lear’s tour of Europe in the summer of 1837. Having spent the early summer of 1837 in Devon, Lear returned to London in early July and from there set off for the Continent on the Antwerp packet boat on 10 July, in the company of his sister Ann with whom he travelled as far as Brussels. He then passed through Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland before spending September and October in the Italian Lakes, reaching Florence in November and Rome in early December. For most of the next ten years, Lear spent the winter in Rome and visited the rest of Italy in the summer.

The highly finished pencil work with white highlights is typical of Lear’s early style.


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