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Edward Lear (1812-1888)


Edward Lear (1812-1888)

Though now best known for his nonsense poems and drawings for children, Edward Lear made his initial reputation as an ornithological illustrator, and then earned his living as a landscape painter. During extensive travels in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, he made frequent, evocative sketches that acted as the basis for astonishing oils and watercolours.

Edward Lear was born at Bowman’s Lodge, Upper Holloway, London on 12 May 1812, the second youngest of the 21 children of Jeremiah Lear, a stockbroker and member of the Fruiterers’ Company. Educated by his eldest sisters, Ann and Sarah, he learned to paint in the family’s own art room, and began to earn his living as a painter at the age of 15. He was employed as an ornithological draughtsman from the age of 17, and made his name in the next few years with books of coloured plates, beginning with Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots (published in parts between 1830 and 1832). The President of the Zoological Society, Lord Stanley (later the 13th Earl of Derby), invited Lear to stay at Knowsley in order to produce an accurate record of his collection of living specimens and skins, and this later resulted in the private printing of Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall (1846; compiled by John E Gray, lithographed by J W Moore and coloured by Bayfield).

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