The following seven drawings date from early in Lear's career before he visited the continent. Lear worked as an ornithological draughtsman until 1837 but began drawing landscape in 1834. The technique and composition of his early works show an influence and knowledge of the work of J.D. Harding, with a vigorous use of soft dark lines and white chalk highlights often on a tinted paper.
His earliest drawings were made near his sister's house in Sussex, followed by Ireland in 1835 and the Lake District, the following year. Lear loved the landscape and wrote enthusiastically to John Gould (31 October 1836) 'I left Knowsley...on the 12th August for a sketching tour, & really it is impossible to tell you how, and how enormously I have enjoyed the whole Autumn. The counties of Cumberland & Westmorland are superb indeed, & tho the weather has been miserable, yet I have contrived to walk pretty well over the whole ground & to sketch a good deal besides'. Many years later in 1884, Lear recalled of his trip '...I know every corner of Westmorland; Scawfell Pikes is my cousin, and Skiddaw is my mother in law'. For a further drawings of Crummock, dated 27 Sept 1836, see exh. cat. V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, Royal Academy, 1985, pp. 94-5, pl. 13g.
The first view of Derwentwater shows Castle Crag to the left and High Spy to the right, the second view of Derwentwater, Lodore is depicted left of centre underneath the birch in the foreground, the large peak to the right is Glaramara. The view of Buttermere shows Honister Pass on the left hand side, Fleetwith Pike is shown to the left pf centre and Haystacks on the right. The view of Wastdale Head shows Yewbarrow to the left, Great Gable in the centre and Lingmell to the left. The view of Grasmere is taken from Red Bank Road looking towards Helm Crag with Steel Fell immediately behind. In the centre is the pass to Thirlmere, with Lonscale, the easterly edge of Skiddaw just showing. The view of Bassenthwaite is looking south towards Derwentwater. The large fell to the right is called Barf. The view of Crummock Water is of the Buttermere end of the lake looking north west. The large fell beyond the lake, central is Mellbreak.
This group of drawings were left by Lear to his godson, Allan Nevill (son of Lear's boyhood companion from Holloway), and have come down by descent in his family.
We are grateful to Robert Wooff of Dove Cottage for his help in identifying these views.