Mount Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling by Edward Lear, 1812-1888. According to the gallery label, Henry Bruce (who became Lord Aberdare in 1873), commissioned Lear to paint "an Indian scene of his own choice" for him when he went out to India. Lear reached Darjeeling in January 1874, and sketched the scene on the spot. He began working it up in oils in 1875, despatching the finished painting to Wales in May 1877. Size: 117 x 178 cm. Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund in 2006. National Museum Cardiff [Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd].

The painting in its frame.

"Despite its centrality to British identity," Nicholas Tromans points out, "few professional artists made it to India" (11). But Lear had gone there at the invitation of the Viceroy, Lord Northbrook. As for the subject he chose for his friend Lord Aberdare, Peter Levi writes approvingly: "at Kanchenjunga, as it is now called, the artist and his proper subject came face to face" — although what really appeals to Levi himself is not so much the finished canvases (of which there were three), but the "swift sketches" (270) that Lear originally made, in which the trees, Levi felt, were more authentic. Still, this one is very beautiful. Of the other two versions, one went to Lord Northbrook himself, and the other to another patron, Lady Ashburton (see Levi 271).

Photographs, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and the National Museum, Cardiff, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on both images to enlarge them.]

Related Material


Dehejia, Vidya, with an essay by Allen Staley. Impossible Picturesqueness: Edward Lear's Indian Watercolours, 1873-1875. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989 (Appendix 1 gives a useful chronology for the trip — see p. 115).

Levi, Peter. Edward Lear: A Life. London and New York: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2013 [Review].

Tromans, Nicholas. "Introduction." The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting. Ed. Tromans. London: Tate, 2008 [Review/report]. 10-21.

Created 19 August 2019