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    Sale 7635

    British Art on Paper

    10 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 48

    Edward Lear (1812-1888)

    Luxor, Egypt

    Price Realised  

    Edward Lear (1812-1888)
    Luxor, Egypt
    inscribed and dated 'Luxor./5.pm.17.Feby.1854' (lower right) and further inscribed with colour notes (lower left and lower right)
    pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour
    13 x 20 in. (33 x 50.8 cm.)


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    The present watercolour is a wonderful example of Lear's working drawings that he executed on his travels which show his entire thought process as he sketched in the early evening light. In order to take back with him the maximum amount of information, he wrote colour notes and reminders about the scene on which he was working, which became a characteristic of his technique. One example of these notes, visible in the lower section of the present watercolour, reads 'from A downward, the sand is yellower', and subsequently the letter 'A' can be found written twice in the centre of the sheet.

    On 8 February 1854 Lear began his return journey to Cairo from Philae, a 'real fairy island', and a week later his boat reached Luxor. Here he spent ten days exploring the surrounding area, particularly the ruined temples at Thebes, the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the temple complex at Karnak where he felt 'like a cheese mite among such giants' (V. Noakes, Edward Lear, The Life of a Wanderer, Stroud, 2004, pp. 107-108).

    For two other examples of Lear's work in Egypt see lots 49 and 53.

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    Pre-Lot Text

    EDWARD LEAR (1812-1888)
    Lots 48-49, 51, 53-56

    Edward Lear began his career as a natural history painter, executing a ground-breaking series of watercolours, entitled Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae (1830), which recorded the collection of
    parrots kept by the Zoological Society of London and was the first of
    its kind to be dedicated to a single family of birds. This training
    helped him to
    develop his powers of observation and attention to detail, which is
    characteristic of his landscape drawings.

    At the age of twenty-five he turned away from his early subject matter and became a landscape painter. In the summer of 1837, with the
    patronage of Lord Derby (1775-1851), Lear left England and travelled
    across Europe to Rome. During this expedition he stopped to draw in
    various locations including Geneva, the Alps and northern Italy. For
    the next eleven
    years he made Rome his base from which he continued to travel around
    Europe and the near East, executing landscape drawings wherever he went that he would later work up in his studio. He often held studio open
    days on his return so that potential purchasers could see the works he had collected and possibly commission a studio watercolour or oil based on their favourite sketch.

    Property of a Gentleman