Van Lear is a Johnson county town southeast of Paintsville. The town was established by the Consolidated Coal Company in 1909 and named for Van Lear Black, a member of its board of directors. The Van Lear post office opened in 1909.
West Van Lear is northwest of Van Lear on the Levisa Fork of Big Sandy River. It was also known as Van Lear Junction on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The West Van Lear post office opened in 1912.
To the northeast of Van Lear is the valley known as Butcher Hollow (or Butcher Holler in the local dialect), the birthplace of musician Loretta Lynn.