Lear Pl. 400, Great Auk
Oppenheimer Editions Print
21 3/8" x 14 3/8"
Limited edition of 500
Blind embossed with the Oppenheimer Editions and The Field Museum logos
Lear's 50 Best, The Oppenheimer Field Museum Edition
One of the great ornithological artists of his era, the multi-talented Edward Lear (1804—1888) was a self-taught naturalist and painter who later became famous for authoring books of nonsense poems and limericks. Edward Lear’s exacting and masterly skill as an artist was employed by other major publishers of nineteenth-century English ornithologies and natural histories.
Born outside London in 1812, Lear was the twentieth child of Jeremiah Lear, a well-to-do London stockbroker who became bankrupt in 1816. Edward Lear was raised primarily by his elder sister, Ann, who provided classical studies and taught him to draw from nature. In 1826, he met Lord de Tabley, founder of the British Institution for the Encouragement of Art, and the precociously talented Lear soon gained introduction to the English art world, including the natural historian and ornithologist Prideaux John Selby, beginning his career as an artist. In 1828, Edward Lear was employed as a zoological draftsman at the Zoological Society in London where he met John Gould, a taxidermist at the Society who later became a prolific publisher of nineteenth-century natural history monographs.
Edward Lear’s work is distinguished by the fact that he was among the first bird artists to draw primarily from living examples, recording not only the precise details of the birds he painted, but also expressing his ornithological subjects’ unique character. The plates Edward Lear contributed to John Gould’s Birds of Europe are among the finest of that work. These rare, beautifully hand-colored plates are signed by Lear on the lithographic stones.
Established in 1999, Oppenheimer Editions has partnered with prestigious museums to make prints from their holdings. Works from the New-York Historical Society’s unrivaled collections of John James Audubon’s watercolors and the Hudson River School paintings are examples of art that otherwise would be unobtainable. Among the institutional collections we have partnered with are the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. These are not mere reproductions. They are limited-edition fine art prints made with the finest quality archival pigments on rag watercolor paper and executed to exacting standards.