Our SLG outings are often a bit of a mystery, with the group never quite knowing what the organiser has in store for us. So it was quite a surprise to be taken to see an exhibition about Edward Lear, his nonsense poems, and his brilliant drawings, on show at Expressions Art Centre, Upper Hutt. Edward Lear is perhaps best known for writing his poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat”, first published during 1871 as part of his book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets. The poem was written for three year old Jane, daughter of his friends John and Catherine Symonds.
The owl and the pussy cat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note
Edward Lear was born into a middle-class family in the village of Holloway, the 21st child of Ann and Jeremiah Lear. He was raised by his eldest sister, also named Ann, 21 years his senior. Due to the family's failing financial fortune, at age four he and his sister had to leave the family home and set up house together. He was a sickly child and also suffered from epileptic seizures. A gifted artist, Lear was already drawing "for bread and cheese" by the time he was aged 16 and was soon employed by the Zoological Society and published an illustrated book about parrots when he was 19 years old. Well known TV presenter David Attenborough has a passion for these works of art prints of Edward Lear. After nearly half a century tracking down a complete set of Lear's prints, Attenborough now has the pleasure of seeing his collection – in celebration of the bicentenary of Lear's birth – being reproduced in a limited edition by the Folio Society. In Attenborough's eyes these are among the finest ornithological drawings ever made.
Beautiful parrot prints by Edward Lear
Also on display were landscape water colours from Edward Lear’s travels and he visited Greece, Egypt, India and Ceylon before settling in San Remo. He was such a talented “serious” artist, but no doubt will be forever remembered for his illustrated nonsense poems. It was so interesting to find out about the life and times of this talented man.