The Collection

View of Beirut

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ArtistEdward Lear (1812-1888)
TitleView of Beirut
MediumOil on canvas
ProvenanceWith Leger Galleries; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in June 1953
Exhibition'Great Cities in the 19th Century', Fine Art Society, London, November to December 1985 (catalogue number 8); 'Romantic Lebanon', Leighton House Museum, London, 10 February to 8 March 1986 (catalogue number 37); 'British Orientalist Painting', Yale Center for British Art, U.S.A., 7 February to 28 April 2008, Tate Britain, 4 June to 31 August 2008, Pera Museum Istanbul, 26 September 2008 to 11 January 2009, Sharjah Art Museum, UAE, 18 February to 30 April 2009; 'Government Art Collection: Selected by Simon Schama: Travelling Light', Whitechapel Gallery, London, 16 December 2011 to 26 February 2012; 'Revealed: Government Art Collection', Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 17 November 2012 to 24 February 2013, Ulster Museum, Belfast 15 March to 9 June 2013
Dimensionsheight: 45.30 cm, width: 69.30 cm
Inscriptionbr: EL (monogram)
AcquisitionPurchased from the Leger Galleries, June 1953
LocationUK, London, HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road
GAC number2150

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Colombo, River SceneColombo, River Scene

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10 December 1874

GAC 10673

Rome, 15 December 1837Rome, 15 December 1837

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GAC 1440

Cervara, 31 July 1839Cervara, 31 July 1839

Pencil, pen and ink and sepia wash on paper

31 July 1839

GAC 1441


Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour on paper

28 August 1848

GAC 17517

Rome from San Giovanni LateranoRome from San Giovanni Laterano

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Edward Lear made his only visit to Lebanon in May 1858, after spending two months in Palestine. He arrived in Beirut on 13 May and later described the city in a letter to his sister, Ann:

'This place is quite different from anything in southern Palestine - & reminds me more of Naples by its numerous villas & gardens, & the civil & gay people. I was only looking about me yesterday, but today I shall make a drawing of Mt. Lebanon, & the Bay & town - which are really lovely as a whole.'

From the drawings he made on the spot, Lear later produced several oil paintings of Beirut, showing the city from different viewpoints.

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Chapel of the Annunciation, NazarethChapel of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Watercolour and white hieghtening on paper


GAC 3703

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Temple of the Sun, BaalbecTemple of the Sun, Baalbec

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Port of Tyre, April 27th 1839Port of Tyre, April 27th 1839

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published 18 September 1843

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Colour lithograph

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Cedars of LebanonCedars of Lebanon


published 1841

GAC 15002

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Edward Lear

Edward Lear, best known for nonsense verse and limericks, was also a topographical landscape painter, musician, travel writer, ornithological and natural history draughtsman and an illustrator. Largely self-taught as a painter, he began by drawing animals at Knowsley Hall menagerie; later moving to landscape painting. He lived in Italy from 1837 to 1848, returning briefly when Queen Victoria requested twelve drawing lessons. He later studied at the Royal Academy Schools (1850-51). In 1852 he was introduced to William Holman Hunt, whose paintings became a great influence. From the early 1860s, Lear’s reputation as a landscape painter declined, perhaps partly a result of the mass-produced watercolours he made, which he called ‘Tyrants’.