John Mcewen com­ments on The Tem­ple of Apollo at Bas­sae

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting Martyn Rix -

That Lear was first and fore­most a land­scape painter is hon­oured by the in­scrip­tion on his head­stone in the Foce ceme­tery, San Remo, in Italy: lines taken from his friend ten­nyson’s poem, To E.L., on His Trav­els in Greece:

All things fair

With such a pen­cil, such a pen, You shadow forth to dis­tant men,

I read and felt that I was there. Lear was his par­ents’ 21st child. his fa­ther was Mas­ter of the Fruiter­ers Com­pany, but made bad in­vest­ments. As to­day, Lon­don­ers found value for money by mov­ing out. Lear was born in the then coun­try vil­lage of hol­loway.

When his fa­ther was im­pris­oned for debt, he was as­signed, at the age of four, to his spin­ster sis­ter Ann, 21 years his se­nior, who moth­ered him un­til her death when Lear was al­most 50. She gave him a fem­i­nine school­ing: draw­ing, recita­tion, mu­sic. All his life, he was cursed with short sight and twice-weekly epilep­tic fits.

From 15, he was a pro­fes­sional botan­i­cal and zo­o­log­i­cal artist. It was when doc­u­ment­ing Lord Derby’s menagerie at Knowsley that he wrote A Book of Non­sense for the Earl’s chil­dren. A visit to the Lake Dis­trict in­spired him to con­cen­trate on land­scape paint­ing— a soli­tary, out­door oc­cu­pa­tion that hid his epilepsy and suited his shy, ro­man­tic na­ture. he trav­elled widely, from Europe to Sri Lanka, fi­nally set­tling in San Remo.

Lear first vis­ited Bas­sae, most re­mote of ancient Greek ruins, in March 1849: ‘I never saw so beau­ti­ful a land­scape as it forms part of.’ his on-the-spot wa­ter­colour-tinted draw­ings were some­times re­worked later in the stu­dio as oil paintings, as was this view.

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