1. The Cretan Drawings - Introduction
Edward Lear arrived in Crete on 11 April 1864 and stayed until 31 May.
Lear refers to ‘196 drawings - & a vast number of small bits’ when penning out and colouring his Cretan sketches back in England in the summer of 1864. (Rowena Fowler, page15). The first section of the list below represents 187 drawings which Lear numbered consecutively from this expedition*. Details of present location, or other provenance details have been found for around 130 of these to date, with possible provenance for another 12.
The second section of the list includes some 56 other drawings so far known to exist. Several of these drawings may be numbered and so belong in the first list, but details are unknown except where a possible identification is shown in italics.
I am grateful to the Gennadius Library in Athens for making available to me the card index of their holdings of 90 of these drawings, by far the largest single collection of them and all acquired in 1929. I have also included details of all the other Cretan drawings illustrated in Rowena Fowler’s (RF) Edward Lear – The Cretan Journal (1984; Denise Harvey & Company, Athens – Dedham) with their then owners. A slightly enlarged selection of drawings, but mostly of figures rather than landscapes, was shown in the second edition (1985), and these are shown as from that edition. The third edition (2012) contains an Appendix of the numbered drawings which, though giving less detail corresponds to the details on this website (where findings have now however been updated to August 2015).
The list is constructed from Lear’s own numbering, and so follows the chronology of his travels in Crete. Very occasionally it seems he numbered drawings out of date order or dated them incorrectly. Locations, dates and times of day are shown. Sometimes place spellings are inconsistent but this is usually because Lear’s own descriptions on the drawings are inconsistent.
In the case of the Gennadius collection the number in brackets in the notes section of the list where preceded by Genn indicates that the drawing is in that collection and catalogued by that number. (The Gennadius numbering system follows alphabetical order of the locations illustrated). In other cases the current owner of the drawing is described in full where known, together with sale history, provenance and exhibitions. In the case of individual owners, ‘private collection’ is noted unless permission has been received to give the owner’s name.
All the drawings of Greece including Crete in the Gennadius collection (and others which she discovered with other owners) were catalogued by Fani-Maria Tsigakou in her thesis submitted for the M.Phil Degree at University College, London in 1977. This has been very valuable for additional details of Lear’s notes on some of the Cretan drawings, for his annotations of the time of day when he made the drawing and for the provenance of some of the other drawings of Crete which she discovered. Her catalogue numbers (and plate references where applicable) are shown at the end of each entry in the ‘Present owner’ column as FMT.
The Gennadius collection focuses on Lear’s travels from 3 May 1864, but he arrived in Crete on 12 April. Edward Lear – the Cretan Journal includes a few drawings from the earlier period from other collections but these have now been considerably augmented by a search of auction records from the 1930s to date. These are included where full details are available from auction catalogues. In a few cases possible attributions are shown in italics.
One sale in 1955, of the estate of Professor R.M. Dawkins, Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, included 42 Cretan drawings, probably the largest single Cretan collection of Lears after the Gennadius one. Unfortunately the auction details give location and date, but not Lear’s number, so a fourth section below sets out the catalogue details of the 25 lots in full. Many of these, where shown, are certainly or very likely the same as identified numbered drawings in the main listing. They are therefore also shown in the main listing in full text where attribution seems certain, or otherwise in italics in the notes section, with cross reference to this third section. Some of the other drawings may also have been part of the numbered sequence, and those which are not would properly be additions to the unnumbered drawings in the second section of the list.
Contacts with dealers in London, a search of catalogues of Lear exhibitions, mostly held in the United Kingdom and the United States, and contact with art institutions internationally has helped to fill a number of other gaps, including provenance and exhibition details. The picture libraries of the Witt Library and Agnew's in London have been most helpful. This work is ongoing and information on 'missing' drawings would be very welcome - please use Contact on this site.
Using Lear’s diary and his noting of where he stopped to draw, some idea of the possible or probable locations of drawings which have not yet been identified is shown in in italics. These locations and dates do not correspond to particular drawing numbers.
17 of the drawings in the Gennadius collection were illustrated in colour in the exhibition catalogue for Edward Lear’s Greece – from the Gennadeion Collections, held at the Cultural Centre of Thessaloniki from 12 June to 12 July 1997. The exhibition was organised and catalogue written by Fani-Maria Tsigakou, and the drawings illustrated are shown as Thess, with catalogue numbers.
An earlier exhibition from the Gennadius Library, Edward Lear in Greece, circulated round eight American institutions in 1971/72 under the auspices of the International Exhibitions Foundation. The catalogue’s pictures are all in black and white, but show 25 of the Cretan drawings, reproducing one (Lear 176) in colour on the front cover. The catalogue has a foreword by Francis R. Walton, then Director of the Gennadius Library, and an introduction by Philip Hofer, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Drawings of Crete illustrated are shown as FRW, with catalogue numbers.
The largest and probably only exhibition of solely Cretan drawings was mounted in Athens in 1966 by the Academy of Fine Arts and the Gennadius Library to commemorate the great Cretan uprising of 1866-69. 62 Lears were shown. Fani-Maria Tsigakou identifies 44 of these in her catalogue with numbered drawings, and these are annotated as ATH with the catalogue number. A calendar was also produced by the National Bank of Greece in 1966 to mark 100 years since the destruction of the Arkadhi Monastery. It had 13 excellent reproductions of Gennadeion Cretan Lears, at 42 cms in width.
Lear produced finished watercolours from a number of his drawings. At least twelve such watercolours have been identified, and details are given in the third section below. He is not known to have made any oil paintings of Cretan scenes.
The following public institutions are known to have holdings from Lear’s visit to Crete. Links to relevant pages of their websites are given in the Links page on this site.
- The Gennadius Library, Athens (89 numbered drawings and one unnumbered)
- Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, USA (5 drawings)
- Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (4 watercolours, 2 drawings)
- British School at Athens (3 drawings)
- National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (1 watercolour, 1 drawing)
- British Museum, London (1 drawing)
- Houghton Library, Harvard, USA (1 drawing)
- Toledo Museum of Art, USA (1 drawing)
- National Art Gallery of New Zealand (1 drawing)
- Iziko Museums of South Africa (1 drawing)
* Numerical entries go up to 179, but 11, 36, 126 and 149 have A and B supplements.