Edward Lear made his only visit to Lebanon in May 1858, after spending two months in Palestine. He arrived in Beirut on 13 May and later described the city in a letter to his sister, Ann:
'This place is quite different from anything in southern Palestine - & reminds me more of Naples by its numerous villas & gardens, & the civil & gay people. I was only looking about me yesterday, but today I shall make a drawing of Mt. Lebanon, & the Bay & town - which are really lovely as a whole.'
From the drawings he made on the spot, Lear later produced several oil paintings of Beirut, showing the city from different viewpoints.
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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