Drawings and other pictures of Mount Athos by Edward Lear
During Lear's visit to Mount Athos and its monasteries from August 29th to September 20th, 1856 and in the days immediately afterwards, Lear made 79 drawings of the mountain, its landscape, the twenty main monasteries and other places he visited on his journey. We know this from a detailed listing of his drawings in his own hand which I have recently analysed at the Yale Center for British Art. In letters to his sister and other letters (see Letters tab) he refers to fifty drawings of the main monasteries and in fact, from the listing, this is the number he drew of the monasteries, but there are also drawings of the mountain itself from various viewpoints, and of the village of Karyes, a smaller monastery, St Nilos, and the wild landscape.
Before this list was found, an attempt was made to find images of as many Athos drawings as possible from public collection and auction records. 54 images have been obtained (a high proportion, compared to those available for his other travels in Greece which have been researched). These include images of all twenty of the main monasteries. Images of a number of finished watercolours and oil paintings have also been found, since Lear capitalised on his drawings stock to obtain commissions for these.
The tab on Provenances and other details lists all the drawings made, cross-referenced to Lear's own listing, and whether they are currently in public collections or private hands. The following public collections hold drawings - see links where images are digitised on site :
- National Galleries of Scotland (5) - https://www.nationalgalleries.org/search/artist/edward-lear
- UK Government Art Collection (2) - https://www.gac.culture.gov.uk/gacdb/search.php?id=9944&mode=artistslist&x=7&y=9
- Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (2) - http://collections.ashmolean.org/collection/search/per_page/100/sort_by/relevance/sort_order/asc
- Art Gallery of South Australia (1) - https://www.agsa.sa.gov.au/collection-publications/collection/works/a-distant-view-of-mt-athos/27245/
- Houghton Library, Harvard, United States (1) - https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/ids:43342577
- Tate Britain, London (1) - https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/lear-the-monastery-of-simopetra-on-mount-athos-t03168
- Courtauld Institute of Art, London (1) - http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/images/gallery/7a2c57a4.html
- National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (1) - https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/27394/
- Benaki Museum, Athens (1)
I am grateful to all these institutions for allowing reproduction on this site either directly or by a link, and also to the auction houses, including Christie's and Sotheby's, for permission to show images of many of the works which have passed through auction. A small number of images have also come through art dealers, for which I am grateful. All are acknowledged under the image itself. I have not been able to obtain permission for a small number of known images, which are therefore not shown.
The pictures below are arranged chronologically through Lear's journey, and the Map tab may be a useful index by monastery as well as showing location, since the monasteries are also numbered chronologically from 1 to 20 both below and on the Map (with a sample image of each of the main monasteries and a couple of sentences describing Lear's journey at that point).
The Lear numbers to the right of each date and location refer to Lear's own main numbers for each drawing listed under the Provenances tab and so give a quick reference to further details on each image - its size and ownership and exhibition history..
29 August 1856 - Athos from above Eriligova Lear 31
1 September - Koutloumoúsi Monastery (1) Lear 33
2 September - Pantokrátor Monastery (2) Lear 36, 40, 35
2 September - Stavronikíta Monastery (3) Lear 41, 42