Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bonhams to Auction Edward Lear Painting of Bethlehem

As well as being a well known poet, Edward Lear (1812-1888) was also a prolific artist. The next 19th Century Paintings auction at Bonhams New Bond Street features a beautiful topographical scene of Bethlehem which Lear completed from sketches he made whilst travelling in the Middle East. It is estimated to sell for £50,000-80,000 at the auction on 13th July 2011.

Edward Lear (1812-1888), Bethlehem. Estimate: £50,000-80,000. Photo: Bonhams

Early on in his painting career Lear focused predominantly on ornithological works and was employed by the Zoological Society, but landscapes subsequently became his preferred subject. He was a frequent traveller and on his numerous journeys he kept detailed diaries as well as many topographical watercolour sketches that were later worked up in oils back in his studio.

In 1858, accompanied by his manservant Georgio Kokali, Lear spent three months touring Jerusalem, Petra, Bethlehem, Hebron and Lebanon, after receiving a commission from Lady Waldegrave for two works including a view of Jerusalem. On 2nd April he left Jerusalem to travel south to Bethlehem and it was on this visit that he did the preliminary sketches for this painting. He wrote to Lady Waldegrave, “My stay at Bethlehem delighted me greatly – & I then hoped to have got similar drawings of all the Holy Land. – All the country near it is lovely – and you see Ruth in the fields all day below those dark olives.”

Lear returned back to London after his travels armed with numerous sketches from Palestine. The Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner described them in a letter to Emily Tennyson, “I went to Holman Hunt’s the other evening and met Lear who shewed all his sketches done in Holy Land: I think that they are the most beautiful things he has ever done: if you have not seen them I hope you will, for they would give much delight and interest you extremely, not only for the mystery and history attached to the places themselves but also for the excessive fineness, tenderness and beauty of the art displayed in them.” The sketches were later worked up into oil paintings, and it is believed that this work was commissioned by Leonard Rowe Valpy, solicitor to John Ruskin and a noted collector of contemporary painting.

Charles O’Brien, Head of 19th Century Pictures at Bonhams comments, “We are delighted to offer for auction this rare Lear view of Bethlehem, a place of huge religious and historical significance, and the artist’s only major oil of the subject.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *