Impossible Picturesqueness: Edward Lear's Indian Watercolors, 1873–1875

Impossible Picturesqueness: Edward Lear's Indian Watercolors, 1873-1875 features approximately 75 scenes of India, most of which have never been exhibited previously.

Edward Lear, known primarily for his Nonsense poems and limericks, was also a superb draughtsman as evidenced even in his earliest illustrations of birds. He developed his talent as a landscape artist in Rome and then, between 1848 and 1881, traveled extensively. An enthusiastic traveller and Indefatiguable draughtsman and watercolorist, Lear visited and depicted scenes of Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and the Sinai.

The last of Lear's extended Journeys was to India between 1873 and 1875 when he was in his sixties. Lear had been persuaded to travel to India by his close friend, Lord Northbrooke, Viceroy of India. He left over 2,000 drawings of India which are now in the collection of Harvard University. These remarkable drawings remain known to only a handful of scholars; this exhibition represents the first time that a comprehensive selection of these works have been presented to the public.

Other 19th-century artists journeyed to India to document its people, lush scenery, and exotic cities. Lear's work, however, is of particular significance not only because of his enormous output, but also, because of the quality of the work and the precise documentation he left behind. Lear is recognized as a master of picturesque topography; his own claim that he was a "painter of poetical topography" is borne out by his exuberant, lyrical watercolors. Because of the journals Lear kept while in India, as well as the notations he made on the works themselves, we are able to gain a thorough understanding of the life of an itinerant artist in colonial India.

Impossible Picturesqueness: Edward Lear's Indian Watercolors, 1873-1875 is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue written by Vidya Dehejia with an essay by Allen Staley, Professor of Art at Columbia University. The 200-page catalogue is distributed by Columbia University Press.

Impossible Picturesqueness: Edward Lear's Indian Watercolors, 1873-1875 is made possible through the generous loan of works by the Houghton Library, Harvard University.