Edward Lear

United Kingdom • 1812−1888

Biography and information

Edward Lear (May 12, 1812, Highgate, United Kingdom - January 29, 1888, San Remo, Italy) - an English ornithologist and animal painter, landscape painter, poet, famous for his many Asburdic poems-limerics.

Features of the artist Edward Lear: the artist became the first painter to “revive” the stuffed animals, instead drawing real, living birds. One of the greatest ornithological artists of his era, Lear masterfully mastered lithography, independently published more than one book on birds and animals, and also participated in joint publishing projects with ornithologist artist John Gould and was the teacher of his wife, artist Elizabeth Gould. After his vision deteriorated, Lear turned to landscape painting and travel, created several illustrated guides, painted pictures.

Famous paintings by artist Edward Lear: Book of Nonsense Illustrations, "View of Mount Athos and Pantokrator Monastery", "Campagna: Villa and Aqueduct in Rome".

The future Limerick master was born in the north of London, in the family of stock broker Jeremy Lear and his wife Ann Clark Skerret. At a time when the main occupations of women were home economics and the birth of children, it was not surprising that the future artist was the 20th child in the family. The economic turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars led to the collapse of the London Stock Exchange, which directly affected the well-being of the Lear family. Ward by his older sister Ann, the boy left his father's house at 4 years old. The younger brother became a favorite child for the 25-year-old Anne Lear - she replaced Edward's mother and remained with him until her death.

From the age of 6, Edward began to have epileptic seizures, to which asthma was later added. Family troubles weighed on the boy, adding periods of depression and melancholy to the diseases. But still, all the same ... Like all children, Edward saw the beauty of the world, loved nature, animals and birds. Anne, along with her sister Sarah, taught her brother to draw and gave him elementary home education. Already at the age of 16, young Lear earned by drawing on a piece of bread. “At first I painted all kinds of unusual advertising drawings for shops, which I sold at prices ranging from nine pence to four shillings, painted prints, fireplace screens and fans, and also made medical drawings for hospitals and private doctors,” the artist recalled. His talent gained recognition, and two years later Lear began his professional career.

In 1830, he turned to the London Zoological Society with a request to provide him with access to a collection of birds for the book "Illustrations of the Psittacid family, or Parrots." The meeting was chaired by Lord Stanley, later the 13th Earl of Derby, who from his youth was passionately passionate about books and drawings on natural history. This June day of 1830 was a turning point in the fate of the novice artist - his project was supported, Lord Stanley invited Lear to his estate in Knowley Hall, where he kept a menagerie, and soon young Edward became an associate member of the Linnaeus Society.

Having finished work on a book about parrots, Lear arrived in Nowsley, where, by order of Lord Stanley, from 1831 to 1837 he created a series of drawings with birds and animals. Lear lived on the estate, painted, and also entertained children from the Stanley family, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Lord. It was for them that he began to come up with entertaining short poems-limerics, which later became the famous "Book of Nonsense" (1846). It was Lear who approved the classical composition of limerick. The artist called his poetic exercises "absurdities," or "meaningless rhymes" - "nonsense rhymes"; The name "Limerick" appeared only at the end of the 19th century (it is associated with the Irish city of Limerick - the history of the origin is foggy). Both children and adults fell in love with amusing rhymes with simple cheerful pictures, and the Book of Nonsense has survived more than one edition. Lear composed lymeriks all his life and continued to publish picture books. So saw the light “The book of nonsense and even more nonsense” (1862), “Ridiculous songs and stories” (1871), “Nonsense alphabet” and “Nonsense botany” (1888).

As an outstanding ornithologist and animal painter, he worked closely with other renowned ornithologist and artist John Gould, and also taught his wife Elizabeth Gould the art of etching. Lear also worked on the series "Birds of Europe" and "Toucans", created a series of illustrations with turtles and British mammals.

The field of several years spent on the estate of Edward Stanley, the artist felt that his vision began to deteriorate, and the thin lines of lithographs he could not afford. Then he decided to become a landscape painter and entered the Henry Sass Academy of Arts in London, after which he left for Rome in 1837 to improve his health, continue his artistic education and gain new experiences.

The following years he spent traveling around the country. This was the period when he was fascinated by landscapes, and in 1841 the artist published the book “Impressions of Rome and its environs”, and in 1846 - two volumes of Illustrated Travels in Italy, accompanied by maps, descriptions of the area, customs and manners of the population and own impressions. After this book, Queen Victoria, who greatly appreciated the art of Lear, invited the artist to give her 12 drawing lessons. Despite the fragile health, the artist traveled a lot and worked hard, capturing what he saw in watercolors and oil paintings, combining the series into book editions. He visited Greece and Egypt (1848−1949), Albania, South Calabria, Corsica, the Ionian Islands, Palestine.

In 1852 Lear met the Pre-Raphaelite artistWilliam Holman Hunt and became his student. Then he met the poet Alfred Tennyson and his wife Emily, with whom he became friends. As an amateur musician (and Lear played great on the piano, accordion, flute and guitar), the artist began to compose and publish musical arrangements for Tennyson’s poems, and by the end of his life he illustrated some of his poems.

In 1870, the artist finally decided to settle in Italy. In the resort town of San Remo, among palm trees and olive groves, Lear built himself a new house. Here he spent happy years of life in the company of Albanian cook Giorgis and his beloved cat Foss. The artist preferred male society to female, although twice he made a proposal to the hand and heart of a lady who was 46 years younger than him.

Lear made his last trip in 1873, going on a trip to India and to the island of Ceylon. The remaining years of his life he spent in San Remo. Edward Lear died on January 29, 1888 at the age of 75, having survived his beloved Foss cat for only two months. Noting Lyra's enormous contribution to natural science, three birds were named in honor of the artist: cockatoo - Lapochroa leari, macaw - Anodorhynchus leari and multi-colored parrot - Platycercus leari. This is a serious confession. But Lira brought world fame all the same, "The Book of Nonsense."