Born in Holloway, London, Edward Lear (WFN130) was the twentieth of twenty-one children of Danish descent and as such had to earn his own living at an early age. He did this by drawing birds and other works for shops and hospitals. In 1831 at the age of 19 he obtained employment as a draughtsman in the gardens of the Zoological Society, assisting John Gould and Dr J.E. Gray with ornithological and other drawings. In 1832 he published one of the earliest collections of coloured plates on birds.
Between 1832-1836 he was engaged at Knowsley by Edward Stanley, the thirteenth Earl of Derby (KN62). He drew sketches of the estate (KN118) and the plates to accompany the 'Knowsley Menagerie' (WFN180). He was popular with the Derby family and wrote the Book of Nonsense for the Earl's grandchildren. This was published in 1846, and along with a number of subsequent volumes published in the 1870s, popularised the limerick. His verse include eternal favourites such as the 'Owl and the Pussy Cat went to Sea'
From 1836 he devoted himself to the study of landscape, travelling around southern Europe and Palestine publishing a series of illustrated 'Journals of a Landscape Painter'. His first exhibition was in Suffolk in 1836, he also exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1850. In 1845 he gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria, and produced some illustrations for his close friend Alfred Tennyson which were published after he died.
The last few years of his life were spent in St. Remo where he died and was buried in January 1888.
(figures in brackets are reference numbers of photos in the main site)