The Owl and the Pussycat
Went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey,
And plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.

We are all familiar with this piece of nonsense but what is the hidden connection with the Ionian Islands?

The answer lies with the poem’s author Edward Lear who was also a respected artist who spent a lot of time in the Ionian area painting its’ landscapes and seascapes. This is being celebrated in Corfu this summer with an exhibit of his drawings, engravings, watercolours and oil paintings at the island’s Museum of Asian Art. The show is intended to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of his birth and celebrate this multi-talented Victorian artist, illustrator and author.

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

Most people associate Edward Lear with his whimsical limericks and ‘nonsense’ poems but it was his travels to the Mediterranean and the artistic products of these travels that helped him to make a living. Visiting this area during the Victorian period was nowhere near as easy as it is now and he often traveled under difficult circumstances to record the landscapes of Greece. His work recording the Greek islands came before the days of photographs and the picture postcard and were some of the first depictions seen of this area.

His favourite Ionian island was Corfu which he considered to be a ‘paradise’ and to contain huge variety and great beauty. The charm of his paintings and sketches is that they also show us an idyllic and rustic Corfu before the arrival of tourism and the recent development of the island.

Arillas Beach

Arillas Beach

For this glimpse of the Corfu of the 18th Century we can visit the exhibit which runs from 25 May 2012 to 31 August 2012 at the museum which is located in magical Corfu Town.

Janine Cording
GIC – The Villa Collection