News from
Office of Communications
Stanhope Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
Telephone 609-258-3601; Fax 609-258-1301 

Contact: Ruta Smithson (609) 258-3763
Date: October 1, 1999

Edward Lear's Watercolors on Exhibit at Princeton University Art Museum

PRINCETON -- On October 1, 1999, "Edward Lear's Greece: Watercolors from the Gennadius Library, Athens" will open at The Art Museum, Princeton University. Guest curator, Fani-Marie Tsigakou, curator of prints and drawings at the Benaki Museum in Athens and an expert on the British artist Edward Lear, has selected thirty-five watercolors, painted by Lear during his travels in Greece between 1848 and 1864, from a collection of some 200 Lear watercolors in the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Edward Lear (1812-1888) was a master watercolorist whose travels through Greece produced some three thousand paintings. A superb draftsman, he combined vivid linear penwork with subtle colors, balancing the piercing clarity of Greek light with warm washes of color, often labeling, in his fine spidery hand, the time of day as well as tonalities. These watercolors served him on his return to London for the production of large-scale oil paintings, which adorned many Victorian drawing-rooms. To the twentieth-century eye, however, Lear's watercolors are better works of art, with their freshness, spontaneity, and extraordinary command of the delicate watercolor palette. These paintings, together with Lear's published and unpublished travel writing, constitute a panoramic pictorial record of mid-nineteenth-century Greece during the transitional period between Ottoman rule and the intrusion of Western European civilization. They are priceless and unique documents of a vanished landscape.

The Gennadius Library, located in the heart of Athens, is one of the world's great collections of rare and specialized books on Greek history and culture since the end of antiquity. It was built in 1926 by the American School, a major American research institute in the humanities founded in 1881 and devoted to Hellenic culture of all periods. In addition to books, the Library also has extensive archives and a collection of art relating to Greece, including the works in this exhibition. The Gennadius Library and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens have their U. S. headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.

Complementing Edward Lear's watercolors of Greece is The Art Museum's permanent collection of Greek and Roman art, which is exhibited in the Museum's lower galleries. The collection includes a diverse range of ancient art and artifacts, many of outstanding quality and importance, including gold jewelry, painted pottery, and sculptures in bronze, marble, and terracotta, as well as a large number of Roman mosaic pavements from the Princeton excavations at Antioch-on-the Orontes. The collection functions as a major resource for the teaching of ancient history and classical art and archaeology by Princeton and regional university faculties and by secondary teachers in the Princeton area.

The exhibition will be on view at Princeton through January 2, 2000, which will coincide with the twentieth anniversary celebration of the Program in Hellenic Studies and the Modern Greek Studies Association Thirtieth Anniversary Symposium. The exhibition is organized by the Gennadius Library in collaboration with the Program in Hellenic Studies and The Art Museum, Princeton University, with additional support from the Departments of Classics and Art and Archaeology. Honorary patrons for the exhibition are the Greek Ambassador to the United States and Mrs. Alexander Philon.

The Art Museum is open to the public without charge. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2 p.m. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. The Museum Shop closes at 5 p.m.

The Museum is located in the middle of the Princeton University campus. Picasso's large sculpture Head of a Woman stands in front. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788.