MR LEAR: A Life of Art and Nonsense


MR LEAR: A Life of Art and Nonsense

JENNY UGLOW    Book Number: 89946    Product format: Hardback

Edward Lear was born on what is now the bustling Holloway Road, but was then a rural suburb of London. His father worked in the City, and Edward was largely brought up by his adored sister Ann, who taught him about plants and insects, Greek myths and Lord Byron. His mother took no interest in him and in Lear's nonsense poetry animals often have more personality than humans. A possible episode of abuse, of which he never spoke, was marked in his diary each year. Lear became an accomplished botanical painter in his teens, and on the opening of London Zoo he painted its inmates, persuading his well-off circle of friends to subscribe to an ambitious book of parrot paintings, measuring the birds as the keeper kept them still and recording the bright colours with care and accuracy. At the same time he was writing and illustrating nonsense poems for his friends and eventual publication. In 1837, aged 25, Lear set off for Europe where he would create the exquisite watercolours that were prized by aristocratic patrons and which featured in his travel series Journals of a Landscape Painter. Lear's sexuality was fluid and he liked the idea of marriage but fell in love with Frank Lushington, with whom he travelled to Crete but did not achieve the closeness he hoped for. He escaped the tension of the relationship with a visit to the Holy Land, where he created intensely pigmented watercolour studies of Petra, Masada and other ancient sites. Ten years later he courted Gussie Bethel, herself an author with decided views, but could not bring himself to propose. Soon afterwards on a visit to Cannes he wrote "The Owl and the Pussycat" for the daughter of John Addington Symonds, who was himself a homosexual trapped in a marriage from which there was no escape. Lear spent the last years of his life in Italy, and this superb biography portrays a lovable man constantly in flight from himself. 608pp, illustrations in black and white and colour.
Published price: £25
Bibliophile price: £10.00


Additional product information

ISBN 9780374113339
Browse this category: Historical Biography

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