Lear, better known today as a nonsense poet, was a professional artist who was specialised in painting views of remote and unusual places. This type of sketch was never intended to be exhibited. It was done on the spot to be used as a reference in the studio later for a painting or finished watercolour. This sketch was made on a trip along the Nile. It is inscribed 'Asswan, 8. Feby 1854 6 P.M.' The precision of time and place is complemented by the exact descriptions of colour scribbled into relevant parts of the scene.
Lear had studied with the Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827 - 1910). He had taught Lear the importance of precisely transcribing the light and colour of a particular time and place while he was sketching.
Lear made a second watercolour on the same day as this one. It is inscribed "Mahatta, 8. Feb 1854, 10-11 A.M" (sold at Bonhams on 6 December 2012, Lot 106). Mahatta is within easy travelling distance of Aswan.