Oil on canvas: 39.5(h) x 32(w) in /
100.3(h) x 81.3(w) cm
Signed and dated 52-53 & inscribed on reverse
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WILLIAM GEAR RA
Methil, Fife 1915 – 1997 Birmingham
Signed and dated lower right: Gear /52-53; signed, dated and inscribed
Gear /“LATTICE”/DEC ’52-/FEB ‘53’ on the reverse
Oil on canvas: 39 ½ x 32 in / 100.3 x 81.3 cm
Frame size: 43 ⅛ x 35 ¾ in / 109.5 x 90.8 cm
Gimpels Fils, London
London, Gimpel Fils, Robert Adams / William Gear, May 1953, no. 67
São Paulo, 2nd São Paulo Biennial, December 1953 – February 1954, no. 114
London, The South London Art Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by William Gear and Paintings by Ivon Hitchens from the Howard Bliss Collection, 11th – 31st July 1954, no. 49
When William Gear returned from Paris to Britain in 1950, he had already spent several years at the forefront of new developments in European and international abstraction. In 1949 he was
the only British artist to exhibit with Cobra in Copenhagen and Amsterdam and at the Betty Parsons Gallery alongside Jackson Pollock in New York. He was also close friends with members of the Ecole de Paris, including the influential Nicholas de Staël. In 1951 Gear was one of a select group of artists invited to paint for the Festival of Britain exhibition Sixty Painters for ’51 and his Autumn Landscape (Laing Art Gallery, Tyne and Wear Museums) was one of the five works (including one by Ivon Hitchens) purchased for the Arts Council’s permanent collection. The ensuing controversy brought the young, relatively unknown artist national attention. Gear later explained that Autumn Landscape had been painted while ‘going in and about the woods’ gathering sticks for the fire in Buckinghamshire, from which developed both his fascination for trunk and branch forms and his dappled style suggestive of the flickering movement of sunlight through trees. Gear and his young family moved to Speen Farm, Flowers Bottom near Aylesbury in 1951, but the same observation of forms in nature can be seen to inform the more structured Lattice, the black-bordered framework evoking intertwined branches, dark bark stippled with moss and the harsh, cold light of winter through the trellis.
Referring to this period of his career, Gear recalled: ‘It was generally described as ‘abstraction within landscape’. I was living in the country and was continually aware of it – trees, woods,
hedgerows, structures in landscape. I was never describing them in paint – I was simply allowing them to contribute, through the medium of paint, colour, texture, forms, rhythms and so on. I don’t think any artist can deny nature. I don’t mean that he should be describing ‘naturalistically’, but these images are stored to be used later’.
Gear not only exhibited this important painting at a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1954 (alongside the work of Ivon Hitchens), but also at the São Paulo Biennial of 1953 representing
British Art, along with works by Patrick Heron, Ceri Richards and William Scott.
WILLIAM GEAR RA
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.
 The artist cited in John McEwen, William Gear, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2003, p. 54.
 The artist in William Gear Paintings 1964–1971, exhibition leaflet, Gardner Centre Gallery, University of Sussex, Brighton, 1971.