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Edward Lear was an Engish painter, writer, poet, musician, and illustrator. As an artist, he was primarily known for his striking landscapes, such as The Pyramids of Gizeh, also The Cedars of Lebanon.
He was also a writer and illustrator. His most known works were The Owl and the Pussycat, as well as A Book of Nonsense.
Edward Lear was born in 1812 in the city of Holloway, England. He was born into a middle-class family, the penultimate of 21 children, and the youngest to survive. Due to economic misfortune following the Napoleonic Wars, when Lear was four years old, he was required to leave the family home. He moves along with 21 older sister Ann, who raised him as her son and continued to act as such until her death when Lear was almost 50 years old.
Since his youth, Lear suffered from health afflictions that would follow him throughout his life. From age six was afflicted by frequent episodes of Asthma, bronchitis, and epileptic seizures, the latter being especially traumatizing to him. His first episode was during a fair with his father, resulting in an embarrassing and scaring occasion for him; his medical condition was a lifelong source of guilt and shame for Lear. With only seven years old young Lear began to show signs of depression, probably due to an unstable childhood. Lear suffered from phases of severe melancholia, which he called “the Morbids”.
At age 16, Lear was already drawing for some payment and soon developed into a keen ornithological drafter and was even employed by the Zoological Society. Lear’s first publication was when he was only 19 years old, called Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots; Lear was the first significant artist to create his drawings based on real live birds, instead of their skins. The Earl of Derby employed Lear from 1832 to 1836.
Edward Lear is one of the best ornithological artists of his era and was recognized as such. He was compared to the naturalist John James Audubon favorably. He was Elizabeth Gould’s teacher at the same time he would contribute to John Gould’s artwork.
His vision deteriorated, which made it impossible for him to keep working on such a precise medium. Thus he turned to travel and landscape painting. Among other places, Lear visited Egypt, India, and a brief period in Ceylon. In these travels, he would produce several colored wash drawings that later became fully realized watercolors or oil paintings. His landscape style is very distinctive, often depicting strong sunlight, with intense color contrasts.
Edward Lear died in January 1888, in the city of Sanremo, Italy.