Edward Lear, the English artist now known mainly for “The Owl and the Pussy-cat” and other literary nonsense, has been selected by Albanian authorities to promote tourism along the ancient Via Egnatia linking East to West.
The National Coastline Agency on Thursday opened an exhibition of sketches made by Lear during an 1848 visit to Albania.
Agency head Auron Tare said they were seeking to revitalize the Via Egnatia, constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century B.C. The ancient route crosses territory that is now part of Albania, Macedonia, Greece and European Turkey.
“Lear was the last of the big names to travel along the Via Egnatia to see the influence of Albania dating back to ancient times,” said Tare. Lear’s sketches are preserved at Harvard University’s Houghton Library of rare works.
They depict scenes Lear witnessed in towns such as Manastir and Ohrid in Macedonia, or Elbasan and Tirana, 72 years before it became Albania’s capital. They also show central and eastern Albania’s rugged mountains and form an important record of folk costumes worn at the time in Albania.
Abaz Hado, a painter and art manager, said Lear’s works are of “documentary and artistic value, giving views of the period that have since been transformed or no longer exist. From an artistic point of view, they present clear lines and accurate depictions of the 19th-century way of life.”
Promoting tourism from the coastline to the mountains has been a top priority of post-communist Albania’s governments.