No Nonsense Painting by King of the Limerick

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No Nonsense Painting by King of the Limerick
Edward Lear, View of Kangchenjunga (detail).

LONDON, ENGLAND.- Edward Lear (British, 1812-1888), original author of the nonsense limerick and tortured genius of the well-known verse The Owl and the Pussycat, and The Dong with a Luminous Nose, is perhaps less famous as a painter. However, Bonhams’ Sale of Travel and Topographical Pictures on 10 May at 101 New Bond Street, London, will reveal the artist was just as talented with a paintbrush as he was with a pen.

Bonhams specialists expect a spectacular view of one of the highest Himalayan peaks, Kangchenjunga, by Lear to fetch £400,000-600,000 at the sale. The rare oil on canvas, entitled Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling, is rare. It is just one of three large oils of this scene produced by the artist and the only one to be offered for sale at auction. The others remain in private U.S. collections.

In October 1873, Edward Lear embarked on a 15-month tour of India and Ceylon. The previous year his old friend, Thomas Baring, the first Earl of Northbrook had been appointed Viceroy of India and had invited Lear to visit the subcontinent as his guest. His decision about whether or not to go depended on finding patrons who would be interested in his Indian paintings. One of those who commissioned him was the statesman Henry Bruce, who became Lord Aberdare in 1873. He left the choice of the subject matter to Lear, who wrote to him:
“Thank you for your good wishes, India wise: and particularly also for your commission - which I will take the greatest pains with. But will you not tell me if you have any special wish for one view more than another? Shall I paint Jingerry Wangerry Bang, or Wizzibizzigollyworryboo?’

He obviously decided against painting a nonsensical mountain range. More so, he had strong ambitions for the present work. While producing it in his studio in San Remo, he wrote to Lord Aberdare:
“I intend that the ‘Kinchinjunga’ shall be so good a picture that nobody will ever be able, - if it hung in your Dining room - to eat any dinner along of contemplating it - so that the painting will not only be a desirable but a highly economical object.”

Giles Peppiatt, Director of Travel and Topographical Pictures at Bonhams says: “We are delighted to have this wonderful painting in our next sale. Edward Lear oils are extremely rare and much sought after. Sadly he was a rather frustrated artist as he was better known for his watercolours.”

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