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Methil, Fife 1915 – 1997 Birmingham

William Gear was born in Methil, Fife in 1915. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1932–36, followed by Post-Graduate study in Art History at Edinburgh University. In 1937 he won a travelling scholarship and later studied in Paris with Fernand Léger. He returned to attend Moray House Training College in 1938 and exhibited for the first time at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Society of Scottish Artists. During the Second World War, Gear served with the Royal Corps of Signals in the Middle East, Italy and Germany (finding time to paint and exhibit), where he subsequently worked as a staff officer for the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives branch of the Control Commission from 1946–47. While in Celle he focussed on securing the safety of the Berlin Art Collection and organised an important series of modern art exhibitions. He also befriended the artist Karl Otto Götz. They both later became members of the COBRA movement (derived from the cities of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam), a group formed in 1948 linking Northern European artists with a common interest in Abstract Expressionist art. Demobbed in 1947, he returned to Paris and became a leading member of the Ecole de Paris. He held his first one-man show at the Galerie Arc en Ciel, Paris in 1948 and at Gimpel Fils, London in the same year.

In 1950 Gear returned to the UK and settled in Kent. He controversially won a major prize at the Festival of Britain in 1951 for his painting Autumn Landscape and continued to exhibit in various group shows in the UK and in Europe. From 1958–64 he became curator of the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne and from 1964–75 was Head of the Department of Fine Art at Birmingham College of Art. Gear was elected a Senior Royal Academician in 1995.

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