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Edward Lear
Dates: British, 1812 - 1888
Biographical Account:

The landscape painter and writer Edward Lear was born in May 1812 and educated at home by his sister Ann. He had no formal art training and was completely self-taught.


He first became an ornithological draughtsman, and is noted for his work, ‘Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots’ published in 1830, when Lear was nineteen. Lear was also a draughtsman for the Zoological Society and for a brief period, a drawing tutor to Queen Victoria. From 1832, the Earl of Derby employed Lear to make drawings of birds and animals in his private zoo. 


Lear also drew landscapes, of the English Lake District, Italy and other European landscapes. Lear remained abroad for the rest of his life, where he would spend long periods of time in remote places all over Europe. He would look at the scenery and quickly sketch the details of the view in pencil, then later he would ‘pen-out’ the drawing in ink and apply coloured washes. He always recorded the precise location and most often the time and day, numbering it and noting the type of imagery for future reference. These drawings would be taken back to his studio and turned in to much larger works and oil paintings.


He was inspired by places of beauty with historical associations, such as Philae in Egypt. Between 1841 and 1870 he published seven books of the drawings of his travels.


At the age of 37 Lear decided to fulfil his ambition to be a student at the Royal Academy Schools. In 1852 Lear met one of the leading members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood William Holman Hunt, who advised him on oil technique, colour and composition. Lear tried to follow Pre-Raphaelite principle of painting directly from nature, however he abandoned these methods and started painting from his drawings of his travels.


Lear was also well known for his nonsense writing and drawings, limericks, songs, stories and alphabets along with humorous illustrations. His first and most famous poem was The Owl and the Pussycat.


Lear died at his home in San Remo on 29th January 1888.

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