William Gear

This is the centenary of Gear’s birth and there are some activities which reflect that. The great Redfern Gallery in Cork Street has a splendid show, which I have just visited. Then there is going to be a show at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, which I am going to in August, and a new book by Andrew Lambirth.

I find Gear’s work increasingly attractive as the years pass. I often see the works on paper; whereas the oils are less common. The Redfern has a number of large (and expensive) oils, as well as smaller pieces on paper. It also has a well-illustrated accompanying catalogue.

For those of us who are well used to English work of the mid-century, Gear’s largely Continental European outlook comes as a change. There can be no claim on him by the Scottish art establishment, except based upon the accident of his birth there. He was surely primarily a French artist, his work unlike that of anyone else of note practising in England that I can think of. He used colour in bold and adventurous ways, often to great effect. I am unable to analyse why it works; why I like it. It is somehow effective, to use the hackneyed formulation, on the nervous system, intuitively suggesting the mood of a moment and even the feeling of some sort of landscape. How it does that is not susceptible of analysis by me, except for the occasional juxtaposition of title and colour (the sea in the title reflected in the blue paint for example). Such analytical shortcomings may well be mine; maybe it is sufficient that the radiant pictures affect me in some way.