Cornell University, Albert R. Mann Library     Body of Owl Tail of Owl
Introduction

The Owl and the Pussycat. Sea-worthy sieves, scroobious pips and runcible spoons. Edward Lear is best remembered for his Nonsense, the preposterous rhymes and sketches loved by generations of children. In fact, Lear was a man of overwhelming talent who produced, in addition to his Nonsense books, a body of work including more than 300 landscape oil paintings, some 9,000 watercolors, hundreds of ornithological lithographs and natural history illustrations, five published travel journals, six unpublished manuscripts, a dozen published songs, and many thousands of letters.

This exhibit focuses on a brief period of Lear’s youth. Beginning when he was still an adolescent, until he was twenty-five, Edward Lear worked as a natural history illustrator. During this period, he created some of the most extraordinary images of birds ever made. And although his ornithological career ended early, he never really left his birds behind; they appear in all of his work, throughout his life, full of charm and whimsy.

 

Detail from Lear's illustration of a Raven (Corvus corax)
Detail from Lear's illustration of a Raven (Corvus corax) from Volume III of John Gould's The Birds of Europe.
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