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Edward Lear, 1812–1888, British

Amada, 9:30 am, 12 February 1867

Additional Title(s):

9:30 am, 12 February 1867 (428)

Amada, 9:30 am, 12 February 1867 (428)

Watercolor, pen and brown ink, and graphite on thick, rough, cream wove paper
4 7/8 x 13 3/4 inches (12.4 x 34.9 cm)

Inscribed pen and brown ink over graphite, lower left: "9,30 AM. Feby 12, 1867"; in pen and brown ink over graphite, lower right: "(428)"; inscribed with notes throughout; inscribed on verso in graphite: "114 / Longwise / Upper / Amada"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | desert | landscape | river | river | ruins | sand | sky | temple | water
Associated Places:
Africa | Amada Temple | As Said | Aswan | Egypt | Nile | Nubia
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IIIF Manifest:

By the end of the 1850s, Lear’s early popularity had begun to waste, and there was no real market for the grand oil landscapes he aspired to paint from his sketches. In desperation he turned to mass producing highly finished watercolors in a factory-like process, sometimes working on hundreds simultaneously, adding a wash to each in turn until they were all complete. These he called the "Tyrants," and between 1862 and 1884 he had made over a thousand of them. Aware that he was deeply compromised by these pot-boilers, he still hoped to persuade patrons to commission major works on the strength of his small outdoor sketches. But few buyers came forward, making the sketches themselves the best of his later work. Lear's Amada watercolor was begun on a tour of Egypt in 1867 and is one of a numbered series of views of the ruined temple made on the morning of February 12. The site at Hassaia was a conventional stopping point, and Murray's popular Handbook for Travellers in Egypt (1858) had recommended a visit to the "small but elegant temple." Lear arrived early to avoid the midday Egyptian heat and made a sequence ofsketches of the site from different angles, each one carefully inscribed with the date, time, and its number in the sequence. This view was taken at 9:30 A.M., but other drawings in the series show he was working from at least as early as 6:50 A.M. Once again, Lear made copious notes, truncating words like "bricks" to "brix" to get them down on paper faster. From the times written on the sketches at Amada, it seems Lear was giving himself around five minutes per sketch before shifting position to draw another view of the site. One would expect Lear to have been recording the shifting colors as the sun rose over the landscape in this almost obsessive burst of drawing, But when taken together, one sees how Lear's coloring in the Amada series became repetitive, using the same ochre washes on each drawing no matter what time of day they were made. A further oddity is his careful penning over pencil, an archaic technique harking back to the example of an artist like Francis Towne (cat. no. 10), though by Lear's day, Towne's name was already all but forgotten. Despite this laborious exercise, the washes Lear then laid on frequently pay no heed to the line. In both the Dead Sea and Amada sketches, colors have a life of their own, spilling over the penned boundaries, bleeding into one another, and mottling the surface of the textured papers in a way that suggests a quite different vision of the landscape. For an artist who claimed to "aim at extensive Topographical representation, of a better order than has hitherto been called such," these fascinating idiosyncrasies suggest a far more complex and inscrutable vision.

Matthew Hargraves

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, pp. 190-191 , no. 84

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (The State Hermitage Museum, 2007-10-23 - 2008-01-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007-07-11 - 2007-09-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Yale Center for British Art, Great British watercolors : from the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pp. 190-91, no. 84, ND1928 .Y35 2007 (LC)+ Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

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