Lear produced compositions of striking simplicity and originality, from an astonishing range of places. He would begin with drawings made on the spot, which he would ‘pen-out’ in the studio and then add broad colour washes. These provided the material for the saleable finished works he exhibited back home.
His first book, published in 1846, was an account of his travels in Italy. These Illustrated Excursions in Italy unexpectedly resulted in an invitation from Queen Victoria, then twenty-seven years old, to give her lessons in drawing.