Artefact of the Month - April 2012 Edward Lear watercolours
Original watercolour of Lagotis cuvieri by Edward Lear.
Bicentenary of Edward Lear 12 May 1812 – 29 January 1888
Next month we celebrate the bicentenary of Edward Lear 12 May 1812 – 29 January 1888. Now better remembered for his nonsense verse, he began his career as a zoological illustrator, illustrating the parrots in the Parrot House in ZSL London Zoo. These illustrations were published as Illustrations of the Family Psittacidae or Parrots. The first plates were published in 1830 when Lear was only 18.This wonderful book is featured as Artefact of the month - October 2010. Edward Lear's `Parrots' .
ZSL is fortunate to have 12 original watercolours by Edward Lear, seven of these were used as a basis for colour plates in our publication Transactions of the Zoological Society. An example is the Lagotis cuvieri painting reproduced here, the lithograph of this image was published in the first volume of the Transactions illustrating the article by E.T. Bennett, "On the Chinchillidae, a family of herbivorous Rodentia, and on a new genus referrible (sic) to it".There is some variation between the published plate and Lear's painting. The background and colours are different, and the fur texture is enhanced in the plate but the most obvious difference is in the size of the coiled tail which is much larger in the print. The eye is somewhat different in the two, and there are other minor variations. Similarly his watercolour of an Asian lion was used to illustrate the article by Captain Walter Smee on "Some account of the maneless lion of Guzerat" featured as Artefact of the month - March 2006. Again there are differences between the original painting and the resulting printed plate in the Transactions. The Transactions have been digitised and can be viewed by subscribers at Transactions & Proceedings of ZSL and Journal of Zoology online .
ZSL's Library also contains books illustrated by Edward Lear and about him Edward Lear : list of books and paintings in ZSL Library (279 KB) both books and artworks are listed in our Online Catalogue . Please note that members of the public are welcome to visit and use ZSL Library but both photographic ID and proof of address will be required on your first visit. Appointments are not normally necessary but they are needed to view most of the items by Edward Lear as they are part of our special collections Library Regulations for Special Collections (96 KB)
Many UK zoos will be celebrating Edward Lear’s bicentenary on 12 May 2012 with an `Owl and the Pussycat day’
ZSL are grateful to the Pilgrim Trust for funding the conservation of the watercolour Lagotis cuvieri by Edward Lear.