<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

IIIF Actions
Edward Lear, 1812–1888
Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling
Former Title(s):
Kinchinjunga from Darjeeling, India
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
47 1/8 x 72 inches (119.7 x 182.9 cm)

Signed and dated in monogram in lower left: "EL 1879"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Donald C. Gallup, Yale BA 1934, PhD 1939
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
birds | cliff | costume | drum (musical instrument) | drummer | expedition | ferns | forest | headdress | headgear | landscape | men | mountains | people | shrine | snow | sublime | tapestry | trees | women
Associated Places:
Himalayas | India | Kangchenjunga
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Commissioned by Lord Aberdare to paint a local subject of his own choosing, Edward Lear set out for India near the end of 1873 with his friend Lord Northbrook. Lear soon found his subject in Darjeeling, recording in his journal on January 16, 1874, “Wonderful wonderful view of Kinchinjuna!!!” He sketched repeatedly “the great world of dark opal vallies” and a “little Buddhist shrine,” along with one of the highest peaks of the Himalayas. His characteristic commitment to accurate topography is apparent in this painting’s close attention to details of the landscape. The figures, however, are rendered more as types than individuals, reflecting Lear’s allegiance to the British colonists who sponsored his trip. Over the course of the next five years, he painted this version in oil for Lord Northbrook as well as other versions for Lord Aberdare and Louisa, Lady Ashburton.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Edward Lear's visit to India and Ceylon in 1873-75 was the last and longest expedition of his remarkable career as a travel artist. In January 1874, he was in Darjeeling on the southeastern edge of the Himalayas, near the modern border between India and Nepal. He stayed for several days and, from the scenic Birch Hill Road, studied spectacular distant views of Kinchinjunga (now spelled Kanchenjunga or Kanchanjanga), the third-highest mountain in the world. On his return to England, Lear produced three versions of the present view from his on-the-spot sketches. He painted this, the latest version, for the Liberal statesman Thomas Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook, who as Viceroy (1872-76) had invited the artist to India in the first place, and paid his expenses. In the foreground, some tea-pickers gather near a Buddhist shrine.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
This imposing canvas, one of three versions of the subject, was the result of Lear's visit to India and Ceylon in 1873-75, the last and longest expedition of his career as a travel artist. He went, with some reluctance, at the invitation and expense of his patron Lord Northbrook, the Liberal statesman who had been appointed Indian Viceroy. On his arrival in November 1873 he was immediately enraptured and for the next fifteen months traveled all over the subcontinent, making rough sketches and notes to be used as the basis for more finished work on his return home. He reached Darjeeling, on the southern edge of the Himalayan Mountains, in January 1874, stayed for several days at Doyle's Hotel, and studied the spectacular views of Kangchenjunga-one of the highest peaks-along the well-known scenic route of the Birch Hill Road. After a couple of days he felt overwhelmed, wondering if he could ever make what he saw work as the subject of a painting. "Kinchinjunga is not, as it seems to me, - a sympathetic mountain"; he wrote in his journal for January 18, it is so far off - so very God like & stupendous, - & all that great world of dark opal vallies full of misty, hardly to be imagined forms, - besides the all but impossibility of expressing the whole as a scene, - make up a rather distracting and repelling whole.1 By the end of the following day, however, he was more hopeful: he had made a number of drawings and "jottings" and determined that the mountain looked its best in the early morning. In his journal he noted that the "light and shade" is too broken at sunset, & the absence of the beautiful broad morning effect is not atoned for by the finerr color of later hours. Kinchinjunga at sunrise is a glory not to be forgotten: Kinchinjunga PM is apt to become a wonderful hash of Turneresque color & mist & space, but with little claim to forming a picture of grand effect.2 As further aides-mémoires he bought a number of scenic photographs at the hotel before leaving. Lear returned from India to his home in San Remo on the Italian Riviera early in 1875. Before the trip he had been commissioned to paint an Indian landscape by another of his patrons, Henry Austin Bruce, at the time Home Secretary. It was for Bruce, who in the meantime had been created Baron Aberdare, that he painted the first version of Kangchenjunga, between 1875 and 1877; it now belongs to Cynon Valley Borough Council.3 The second, which he despatched from San Remo at the same time as the first, was commissioned by Louisa, Lady Ashburton and is now in a private collection. The present work, dated 1879, is the third and final version, painted for the man who had encouraged Lear to visit India in the first place, Lord Northbrook.
A member of the Baring family, which had been prominent in the worlds of finance and politics for generations, Northbrook commanded a large fortune. He also had longstanding family connections with India. He enjoyed a successful term as Viceroy and, in recognition of his good work, was almost immediately elevated from baron to earl. In 1879 his friend Lear desperately needed money for a new house at San Remo, and Northbrook gave him an interest-free loan of £2,000. It seems likely that the painting of the present work was related in some way to this: perhaps Northbrook commissioned it as a further means of helping Lear; perhaps Lear presented it to his patron in gratitude.
As he intended after his encounters with the actual place, Lear sets his scene in the morning. He shuns the "Turneresque" mistiness of afternoon in favor of a clear, fresh light that affords definition to every massive ridge and peak. The awe-inspiring "grand effect" that was his highest aim as an artist is achieved in two directions: the mountains piling up to fantastic heights above, and the V-shaped avenue of trees plunging as though into an abyss below. In the left foreground some tea-pickers in local dress gather near a Buddhist shrine, included perhaps to point up the aspiring, spiritual feeling associated with great mountains.

Malcolm Warner

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 166, no. 68, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Edward Lear and the Art of Travel (Yale Center for British Art, 2000-09-20 - 2001-01-14) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Juxtapositions (Yale Center for British Art, 1997-11-19 - 1998-01-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

David Bindman, The History of British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, pp. 92-95 (v.2), fig. 50, N6761 +H57 2008 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Vidya Dehejia, Impossible picturesqueness, Edward Lear's Indian watercolours, 1873-1875 , no. 1, Columbia University Press, New York, 1989, pp. 30-1, NJ18 L455 D44 1989 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martina Droth, Britain in the world: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art in honor of Amy Meyers, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, p. 140, N6761 .Y33 2019 (LC) (YCBA) [YCBA]

Edward Lear, 1812-1888, a loan exhibition of oil paintings, watercolours and drawings, books and prints, nonsense works [held] 15th October to 1st November, 1968 , Gooden and Fox, Ltd., London, 1968, p. 34, no. 101, pl. XI, NJ18 L455 G66 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Donald C. Gallup, What mad pursuits! : more memories of a Yale librarian, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, pp. 73-76, Z720 G19 A31 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Eleanor M. Garvey, Edward Lear, painter, poet, and draughtsman, an exhibition of drawings, watercolors, oils, nonsense and travel books, Worcester Art Museum, April 18-June 2, 1968. , Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Mass., 1968, pp. 44, 82, no. 84, NJ18 L455 W67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John M. MacKenzie, The Victorian vision, inventing new Britain , V&A Publications, London, 2001, p. 316, no. 297-8, DA 533 V528 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden : Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 166, no. 68, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear : the life of a wanderer, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA, pp. 156, 229, Shirley 4107 (LSF) [ORBIS]

Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear, 1812-1888, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, pp. 155-6, no. 63, NJ18 L455 N64 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Romita Ray, Under the banyan tree, relocating the picturesque in British India , The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, pp. 89-92, , fig. 34, N8214.5.I5 R39 2013 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Edward Lear and the art of travel, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2000, pp. 9, 12, 42, 111, no. 130, NJ18 L455 W55 2000 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Andrew Wilton, American sublime : landscape painting in the United States, 1820-1880, , Tate Publishing, London, UK, 2002, pp. 60-1, ND1351.5 W57 2002 (YCBA) [YCBA]

If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.