Exhibit Honors Edward Lear, British Bird (and Limerick) Artist
Edward Lear, an ill-starred but enormously talented nineteenth-century British artist, is the focus of an exhibition marking the 200th year of his birth, April 2 to August 18 at Harvard’s Houghton Library. Afflicted by asthma, epilepsy, depression, and poor eyesight, the teenage Lear began observing and painting birds from life at London’s Zoological Gardens. The public quickly recognized him as perhaps Britain’s finest bird artist. Then, only 25 but with his sight deteriorating, he disappeared from the ornithological scene. He turned to landscape painting while writing limericks and nonsense verse for children.
Lear died at the age of 75, remembered mainly for perfecting the art of the limerick. The present exhibition, “The Natural History of Edward Lear,” curated by Robert McCracken Peck of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, may help restore Lear’s reputation as a great bird artist. Here is his watercolor of the bird named after him, Lear’s macaw (Anodorhynchus leari), now an endangered species.