Edward Lear England
5-12-1812 Middlesex, ENG - 1-29-1888 Liguria, ITABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Edward Lear was born into a middle-class family the penultimate of twenty-one children of Ann Clark Skerrett and Jeremiah Lear. He was raised by his eldest sister, also named Ann, 21 years his senior. Owing to the family's limited finances, Lear and his sister were required to leave the family home and live together when he was aged four. Ann doted on Edward and continued to act as a mother for him until her death, when he was almost 50 years of age.
Edward Lear suffered from lifelong health afflictions. From the age of six he suffered frequent grand mal epileptic seizures, and bronchitis, asthma, and during later life, partial blindness. Lear felt lifelong guilt and shame for his epileptic condition. When Edward Lear was about seven years old he began to show signs of depression, possibly due to the instability of his childhood. He suffered from periods of severe melancholia which he referred to as "the Morbids."
Edward Lear was already drawing "for bread and cheese" by the time he was aged 16 and soon developed into a serious "ornithological draftsman" employed by the Zoological Society and then from 1832 to 1836 by the Earl of Derby, who kept a private menagerie at his estate Knowsley Hall. Lear's first publication, published when he was 19 years old, was Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae or Parrots in 1830.
Among other travels, he visited Greece and Egypt during 1848–49, and toured India and Ceylon during 1873–75. While traveling he produced large quantities of colored wash drawings in a distinctive style, which he converted later in his studio into oil and watercolor paintings, as well as prints for his books.
Lear's most fervent and painful friendship involved Franklin Lushington. He met the young barrister in Malta in 1849 and then toured southern Greece with him. Lear developed an undoubtedly homosexual passion for him that Lushington did not reciprocate. Although they remained friends for almost forty years, until Lear's death.
The closest he came to marriage with a woman was two proposals, both to the same person 46 years his junior, which were not accepted.
He had a lifelong ambition to illustrate Tennyson's poems; near the end of his life a volume with a small number of illustrations was published. One of the greatest ornithological artists of his era, he contributed to John Gould's works and was compared favourably with the naturalist John James Audubon.
Edward Lear's funeral was said to be a sad, lonely affair by the wife of Dr. Hassall, Lear's physician, none of Lear's many lifelong friends being able to attend.
Art Movement: Realism
Traveled: Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Italy