Lear referred to his travel sketches, like this example, as ‘Tyrants’. He would make several in one day, recording the date, location and sometimes even time. Typically he would draw the view in pencil first and then add ink and colour washes at leisure in his studio. Characteristic of these travel studies are the colour notations that can still be seen on the drawings. In his ‘Greek Monastery (Lavra)’ the words ‘blue - perfect calm’ can be seen in the area of the sea, and ‘nearly white’ on the building. Some of the drawings Lear made on his travels were worked up into finished oil paintings or prints at a later stage.
Edward Lear, best known for nonsense verse and limericks, was also a topographical landscape painter, musician, travel writer, ornithological and natural history draughtsman and an illustrator. Largely self-taught as a painter, he began by drawing animals at Knowsley Hall menagerie; later moving to landscape painting. He lived in Italy from 1837 to 1848, returning briefly when Queen Victoria requested twelve drawing lessons. He later studied at the Royal Academy Schools (1850-51). In 1852 he was introduced to William Holman Hunt, whose paintings became a great influence. From the early 1860s, Lear’s reputation as a landscape painter declined, perhaps partly a result of the mass-produced watercolours he made, which he called ‘Tyrants’.
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