Lear first visited Corfu in 1848, to see Sir George Bowen, President of the University of Corfu and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the island. In 1855 Lear's friend Lushington was appointed judge in the British protectorate of Corfu and suggested that Lear might go with him, they remained there until Lushington resigned his post in 1858. In November 1862 Lear left England to winter again in Corfu and it was during this time that Lear began to work on his 'Tyrants' as he called them. These pictures were Lear's response to the public's dismissal of his large oils. Reasonably priced they sold quickly.
The landscape of Corfu held a lasting appeal for Lear and he wrote in his diary, 30 March 1963 '... the more I see of this place, so the more I feel that no other spot on earth can be fuller of the beauty and of variety of beauty'. However his time in Corfu was coming to an end; the British Government was negotiating the return of the Ionian Islands to the Greek government and by the end of February 1963 Lear's tyrants were completed. He toured the islands before returning to England that summer.
The present watercolour may be that referred to as '45 Corfu (the Lake) (Mrs Lyell.)' in a letter to Lear wrote to Fortescue, 22 February 1963, showing how his exhibition was hung, and which included pen and ink thumbnail sketches and an accompanying key (see V. Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, London, 1991, p. 81 reproduced).