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Edward Lear (London 1812-1888 San Remo, Italy)
A Tribute to Christian B. Peper It seems fitting that the late St. Louis lawyer, Christian B. Peper amassed a comprehensive collection of exquisite drawings, watercolors, oil sketches and paintings by the great nineteenth century topographical artist Edward Lear. Peper, who died last summer aged one hundred, obtained an undergraduate degree in Classics from Harvard University, home of the Houghton Library which has the largest (upward of 4,000 works) and most important collection of art and archival documents by Lear. After Harvard Peper returned to St. Louis, gained a law degree and established his own law firm, Martin Peper Martin in 1941. In addition to his law practice, Peper pursued his interest in the Classics and, beginning in the 1960s during visits to London, began collecting art. A board member and chief counsel of the St. Louis Art Museum, Peper generously donated several works to the museum, which showed a selection from his collection in the 2002 exhibition A Gentleman Collects. Ten works by Lear from the Peper Collection will be sold in New York in the Old Master Paintings and Old Master & Early British Drawings & Watercolors sales on January 25 and 26. These works span the length of Lear's career from the late 1830s until 1880, and reflecting Lear's own peripatetic life, their subjects range from Italy to Greece and beyond the Mediterranean to Montenegro and Turkey and indeed as far afield as India, where Lear travelled when he was in his 60s. In addition, almost every type of painting and drawing by Lear is represented in the Peper collection. The technique of his meticulous pencil sketches of the 1830s of Rome and Florence derives from the late 18th century English topographical tradition. His expressive oil sketches of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and a view of Cefalu, Sicily were made in the 1840s before he received any formal training in oil painting. His study of Andora, Italy is an example of his 'penned out' method where a preliminary sketch executed in situ is later worked up in pen and ink and watercolor, following his pencil outlines and color annotations. A study like this - which was for Lear's own reference and not made as a finished work or to be sold - would have been the basis for the sort of finished watercolor exemplified by A fisherman's house on the Bosphorus of 1848, or the 1880 composition in oil, A view of Gwalior, India. Christian Peper was as steadfast a collector of Lear as Lear was a traveler and artist, for it was not until 1996 when Peper was in his 80s that he made what he called his 'crowning acquisition', Lear's magnificent view of Montenegro, executed between 1870 and 1872, based on sketches from the artist's trip to the Dalmatian coast in 1866. Made for his most important patron, Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook, it was sold by his descendants in 1992 and Peper acquired it shortly thereafter, becoming only its second owner -- and a most appropriate custodian of this exceptionl watercolor by Lear. PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF CHRISTIAN B. PEPER (LOTS 22-33, xxx, xxx...)
Edward Lear (London 1812-1888 San Remo, Italy)

Montenegro

Details
Edward Lear (London 1812-1888 San Remo, Italy)
Montenegro
signed with monogram, and signed again and inscribed 'MONTENEGRO./A drawing made by me in 1870-72/from sketches made on the spot in 1866./Edward Lear/Purchased by Thomas Baring Esq.re MP' (verso)
watercolor and bodycolor, watermark 'J WHATMAN', on paper laid down on a panel support
30 x 48 in. (76.2 x 121.9 cm.)
Provenance
Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook and by descent until,
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 17 November 1992, lot 100.
with Artemis, London, where acquired by Christian Peper, 1996.
Literature
V. Noakes, ed., Edward Lear: Selected Letters, London, 1988, pp. 219, 226, 227, 255-6, 261.
R. Pitman, Edward Lear's Tennyson, Manchester and New York, 1988, pp. 136-37, 102.
Exhibited
London, The Fine Art Society, The Travels of Edward Lear, October-November 1983, no. 65 (described as an oil painting).

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Lot Essay

Lear visited Montenegro late in April 1866, during a tour of the Dalmatian coast on his way from Malta to Trieste, and subsequently back to London. His diary describes, on 26 April, the road up from the coastal town of Cattaro 'to Montenegro & really as it ended in cloud it suggested a far more convenient and elegant ascent for the legend of Jacob's dream than the conventional ugly ladder generally used ...'. Lear walked 'a mile or so along the Lake, for so it seem.... The vast semicircle of mountain crags is most striking' (R. Pitman, op.cit., 1988, p. 137).

This large watercolor seems to be the work referred to by Lear in a number of letters of the 1870s and 1880s. On 26 July 1870 Lear wrote to his patron Lord Derby from Cuneo saying that 'My new painting room at Sanremo will not be ready (I fear) for early work in oil this winter ... but I was about until it be so to do 2 large (for watercolour,) drawings in order to try - (vainly I fear,) to get elected Associate at the Old W/color Society: The stained paper for these 2 is (I believe) already on its way out, & I have already made the rough designs for the drawings - Montenegro & Corf ...'.

Later the same year, on 11 December 1870, Lear wrote to Lady Wyatt from San Remo that 'I am at work, - when I work wh is very irregularly, - on a large W.Color picture of Montenegro: and though parts are done - parts ain't ...'. He adds, 'The Montenegro is a cold and gloomy scene - as it is intended to be, for it is in so in reality: and I have done one bit of rock so well you sprain your ankles directly you look at it. In the foreground I had taken a gt deal of pain in a large figure of a Montenegrine, & he was really like life. But some days back as I went into the next room I heard an odd trumpetty noise, and coming back, he had put out his hand, & had taken my pockethankerchief off the table, and was blowing his nose violently! ... I instantly had to sponge out the whole man, for I thought, if he can take up a handkf, he may take up spoons or money. So I killed him, and I wonder where his better part has gone to. O dear! I wish I had done this dreadful drawing! & that I had sold it!'.

In a letter to Baroness Burdett-Coutts from San Remo of 7 February 1883 Lear mentions a large unfinished drawing of Corf from Vir, adding that 'The fellow drawing of this, Montenegro, - belongs to Earl Northbrook'. Thomas George Baring, later 1st Earl of Northbrook, was one of Lear's closest friends, inviting him to India as his guest between 1873 and 1875 when he was Viceroy and Governor-General there (see Noakes, op. cit., p. xl and passim). Many of the drawings in the Houghton Library, Harvard University, now the most important collection of Lear's work, previously belonged to Lord Northbrook, and were still housed in the wooden drawers which Lear had made for his move into Villa Emily, San Remo, when they were sold (Royal Academy, Edward Lear 1812-88, exhib. cat., London, 1985, p. 12).

The work included in the Fine Arts Society Exhibition in 1983 was described in the catalogue as an oil on canvas, 24 x 48in., but a label on the back of this watercolour shows that it was this work

A study for the present watercolor was sold in these Rooms, 15 June 2011, lot 36.

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