Edward Lear (1812 - 1888)

Pen and ink and wash on paper

31 March 1849
  • About the work
    Country: Greece
    City: Athens
    Place: British Embassy

    Many of the locations depicted by Lear during his travels in Europe and the Near East were selected not only for their scenic beauty but also for their historical associations.

    Nemea, in the Arcadian mountains, was the site of the ancient Nemean Games, part of the Pan-Hellenic cycle of games that also included Delphi, Isthmia and Olympia. The Games were first held there in 573 BC but were permanently transferred to Argos in 270 BC, after which date Nemea began to fall into decline. The flat-topped mountain on the right of Lear’s drawing is Mount Apesas, where Perseus is said to have established an altar to Zeus. Nemea was also the location of Heracles’ confrontation with the Nemean lion.

    Colour notes and references to the appearance of objects are characteristic of Lear’s travel studies. His notes also reflect his linguistic creativity and humour, most apparent in his verse. Features are sometimes spelt phonetically, such as the inscription ‘a ded oke tre’ in on this work.

  • About the artist
    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’.
  • Explore
  • Details
    31 March 1849
    Pen and ink and wash on paper
    height: 30.60 cm, width: 52.50 cm
    GAC number