- Visitors & Friends
- About the University
Not all a lot of nonsense: Edward Lear's drawings
Matt Pickles | 17 Oct 12
The Owl and the Pussycat may bring back memories of childhood to millions of people, but not everyone knows that its author Edward Lear saw himself primarily as an artist.
A dazzling selection of Lear’s watercolours, oil paintings, manuscripts and illustrated books are currently on display in the Ashmolean Museum.
The exhibition, entitled ‘Happy Birthday Edward Lear: 200 Years of Nature and Nonsense’, celebrates the bicentenary of Lear’s birth and will remain until 6 January 2013.
'Edward Lear is one of the most extraordinary figures in Victorian England,' says Colin Harrison, senior curator for European art at the Ashmolean.
'He was one of the greatest of all natural history illustrators, a highly original artist who travelled more widely and recorded the landscape more faithfully than almost any other, and also an endearing writer whose experiments with words long predate those of Lewis Carroll.'
Sir David Attenborough, who attended the launch of the gallery, agrees. 'I think he’s probably the best ornithological illustrator that ever was,' he says.
'They are magnificent – not only scientifically correct but as works of art, they are amazing.'
The Ashmolean holds the largest and most comprehensive collection on Lear’s work in the UK and 100 of these works of art will be displayed alongside loans from the Bodleian Library and from private collections, many of which are on display for the first time.
Fans of The Owl and the Pussycat and The Jumblies will be pleased that the exhibition does not ignore Lear’s Nonsense poems – in fact, a board allows visitors to compose their own limericks.
An early entry came from Hetty, aged 10, who rhymes:
There was a young girl from Spain
Who would never go out in the rain
She got caught in a shower and turned into a flower
That unfortunate girl from Spain