Penry Williams, “Civitella Gazette”, view of the Serpentara; a group of artists, including Samuel and Hannah Palmer and Albin Martin, sketching in a landscape. 1839 Pen and brown ink.
“Mr. Lear” is the long-legged one sitting at the foot of the rock
price. 2 Bugs. View of the [Serpentara.] July. 1. 1834. presented gratis.
of Civitella has been made (for the poor) among the residents at  & a considerable sum has been realized.
July 1. 1839
Penry Williams has captured a group of artists at work in the landscape of Civitella on July 1st in 1839. Samuel Palmer is shown in hat and spectacles on the crest of a rock with his wife Hannah (née Linnell) in her bonnet nearby, and Albin Martin seated below. The Palmers were slowly making their way north and back to England after being in Italy since the end of 1837. (see W. Vaughan, E. Barker and C Harrison, ‘Samuel Palmer’, BM, London, 2005, pp. 179-80)
Olevano and Civitella were favourite spots for artists in the 19th century, frequently staying in one or the other and meetingin the middle with the result that there are numerous paintings, drawings and prints by them showing either Olevano seen from Civitella and the Serpentara or of Civitella seen from Olevano and the Serpentara.
Compare with a self-portrait by a friend of Edward Lear’s, Marianne North, showing the conditions in which she often had to work:
A sketch of botanical artist Marianne North perched in a tree – so as to better view the plants she wished to draw. “How I got up and how I got down is still a mystery to me”, (Marianne writing to Dr Allman, from Seychelles, 1883.) Kew Gardens LAA Team.
Edward Lear (after), A View of the cathedral in Orvieto.
From volume II of The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Italy from the Time of Constantine to the Fifteenth Century. With an Introduction and Text by Henry Gally Knight Esq.r F.R.S F.S.A. “G. Moore Delt.” “Owen Jones. Lithochromotog.” London: Henry Bohn, 1843. No. 26.
This appears to be the only Edward Lear Picture in the book, which I did not know he had collaborated with, at least it is the only one I was able to find.
Orvieto had not changed much since 1633, look at this picture from Joan Blaeu, Theatrum civitatum et admirandorum Italiae, ad aevi veteris &t praesentis temporis faciem expressum a’ Ioanne Blaeu. 1663.
Edward Lear, Mount of Olives.
Inscribed and dated ‘Mount of Olives./4.30. PM. 10 April 1867.’ (lower left); numbered ‘(31)’ (lower right); annotated throughout. Pen, ink and watercolour over traces of pencil. 24 x 50cm (9 7/16 x 19 11/16in).
Having visited Egypt in the early months of 1867, Lear set off for Palestine, travelling by ‘the grumpy roarygroanery of camels’ across the desert, arriving at Gaza in early April. The visit was restricted to a few weeks, Lear’s intention to visit Nazareth and Galilee, places he had missed during his previous visit to the area in 1858, hindered by the volume of Easter pilgrims arriving in the area.1
1 Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear, The life of a Wanderer, London, 1968, pp. 217-218.
Edward Lear, Ruins at Dendera, Egypt.
A pair, one inscribed and dated ‘Denderah/3.PM.Jany.15/9.30.AM.Jany16.}1867’ (lower left); numbered ‘(No 7) (170)’ (lower right) and the other inscribed and dated ‘Dendera 8.45 AM/16.Jany 1867′ (lower left)’ numbered ‘(175)’ (lower right); both also annotated throughout. Pen, ink and watercolour heightened with bodycolour. each 16.2 x 34.4cm (6 3/8 x 13 9/16in).
The present works were painted during Lear’s third and final visit to Egypt, between December 1866 and March 1867. During mid-January Lear visited Dendera- a Temple 40 miles downriver from Luxor- and produced a series of numbered drawings. For similar examples see: Sotheby’s, London, 17 November 1988, lot 187 (numbered 176), Christie’s, London, 2 April 1996, lot 100 (numbered 169) and Bonhams, London, 6 December 2012, lot 102 (numbered 153).
Edward Lear, Damascus.
Inscribed, dated and numbered ‘Damascus. 28 May 1858. (217)’ (lower right); annotated throughout. Pen, ink and watercolour over traces of pencil. 19.4 x 55.2cm (7 5/8 x 21 3/4in).
Having visited Jerusalem in the Spring of 1858, Lear set off for the Lebanon, travelling by boat from Jaffa, arriving in Beirut on the 11th May, and moving inland. Lear found the landscape too similar to Greece and Albania, although his opinion of Damascus was more positive, writing to Lady Waldegrave ‘imagine 16 worlds full of gardens rolled out flat, with a river and a glittering city in the middle’.1
1 Edward Lear, letter to Lady Waldegrave, quoted in Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear, The life of a Wanderer, London, 1968, p. 164.
Edward Lear, Near Sarténé, Corsica.
Signed with monogram (lower left) and inscribed and dated ‘near Sateréné [sic] 5 1/2 PM. April 18./ 1868.’ (lower right). Pencil and watercolour heightened with bodycolour and with scratching out. 6 7/8 x 16 ½ in. (17.5 x 41.9 cm.)
with the Fine Art Society, London.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 21 January 1982, lot 221, where purchased for the present collection.
Lear made one visit to Corsica in 1868 and reached Sarténé, in the south of the island on 17 April. On 18 April he wrote in his diary, immortalised in his 1870 publication Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica, ‘I shall… try to get as many records as I can of the landscape, which is of a class rarely met with in such perfection’.
Edward Lear, The Esterelles, from near Antibes, France.
Signed with monogram and dated ‘1876’ (lower right) and inscribed and dated ‘The Esterelles/ from near Antibes./ Feby. 1865’ (lower left). Pencil and watercolour heightened with bodycolour. 10 3/8 x 16 in. (26.4 x 40.6 cm.)
Lear spent the winter between 1864 and 1865 in Nice, travelling along the coast recording the views that he saw in pencil and watercolour. This large drawing of the Esterelles was executed at the end of his stay in France. Whilst in Nice he was working on a number of the highly finished watercolours he produced for sale and exhibition and to which he referred as his ‘Tyrants’. The later date in this drawing refers to the fact that he returned to the subject in 1876 and developed the composition further, a practice that he undertook on a number of occasions.