Edward Lear Biography

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EDWARD LEAR, English (1812-1888)

Edward Lear Self PortraitEdward Lear, British poet, humorist, author, artist and illustrator was perhaps best known as an absurdist writer of literary nonsense (The Owl and the Pussycat). His travel sketches as well as his scientific illustrations of birds were remarkable if less well known accomplishments.
His earliest work was rooted in ornithology, especially while under the employ of the Zoological Society. His first publication, Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots, was published in 1830 when he was only nineteen years old, and was so well received that comparisons to Audubon were frequently made. It is considered the first illustrated book devoted to one family of birds. The young Lear then was hired by John Gould to contribute drawings to the Birds of Europe (1832-37) His illustrations of owls, swans herons and birds of prey are counted among "the most remarkable bird drawings ever made...Lear endowed them with some measure of his own whimsy and intelligence. " Susan Hyman from Edward Lear's Birds. Lear also contributed some of the drawings for Gould's first edition of Toucans published in 1834.
Attracted to the warmth and lifestyle of the Mediterranean, Lear set up a studio in Rome in 1837. He lived in the region for ten years, regularly touring Italy and Sicily with occasional trips to England. After years of travel, Lear spent the remaining years of his life as an ex-patriot painter settled on the Italian Riviera in San Remo, where he died in 1888.