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The Art of JAMA
August 25, 2015

MahabalipooramEdward Lear

JAMA. 2015;314(8):754-755. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11937

The extraordinary life of Edward Lear (1812-1888) seems to continue in spirit across space and time from Victorian England to the present-day world, conveyed in his captivating works. It may be amusing to consider that the same person who concocted the whimsical poem “The Owl and the Pussy-cat” also gave art lessons to the Queen. Ornithological illustrations were included in his early oeuvre, with his later work featuring landscapes emanating the allure of faraway lands.

Born in 1812 in the London area, Lear was one of many children (he is said to have been the 20th) of Ann and Jeremiah Lear. Although he endured health conditions that included epilepsy and respiratory ailments, he was undeterred in pursuing his many interests that included painting, drawing, music, and poetry. Lear’s father had been successful as a stockbroker, but a change in fortunes occurred, and the children became dispersed. Edward was taken under the wing of a beloved much-older sister, who had a stipend from a grandmother to put toward their support.

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