Boat Form, 1970

by William Gear


MEDIUM: Mixed Media on Paper

DIMENSIONS: 19.3 x 24.5 inches (49 x 62.2 cm)

SIGNATURE: Signed and dated 1970


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    Catalogue No: 5231 Categories: , Tags: , ,

    The 1970s saw Gear painting using the thick black lines that he had used in the 1960s but the ideas behind them had changed. They no longer symbolised tree trunks and natural forms but jagged and irregular metal off-cuts. These harsh forms were often complemented by warm bursts of colour.

    In this beautiful work Gear has moved away from these geometric forms and has permeated the canvas with orange and purple flashes to recreate the moored boats. The flickering patches of colour with their ambiguous spatial interplay evoke the sun as it reflects off the barges.

    Private collection, United Kingdom

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    Born in 1915 in Methil, Fife, William Gear was the son of a coalminer.
    He won scholarships to Edinburgh College of Art (1932-6) and the University of Edinburgh (1936-7) where his studies included art history with David Talbot Rice, the eminent Byzantine scholar.

    Between 1937 and 1938 Gear travelled on a scholarship and spent five months in Paris as a pupil of Fernand Léger. In 1940 he was called up and posted to the Royal Corps of Signals. He served in Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus and Italy and consistently managed to paint and exhibit first in Jerusalem and then in Florence. In 1945 he volunteered to serve in Germany and was posted to the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives Section of Allied Control Commission with the rank of major.

    By 1947 he was back in Paris and it was during this time that Gear established his more progressive credentials, when he became involved with CoBrA, a European avant-garde art movement. Made up of artists from across Europe who favoured spontaneity and experimentation, the group were united in their pursuit of complete freedom and form, as they searched for new modes of expression to fit with their expectations of life post-war. He was one of only two British artists to take part in the CoBrA exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1949. In 1958, Gear was appointed curator of Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne which he left in 1964 when he was appointed Head of the Faculty of Fine Art at the Birmingham College of Art, where he remained until he retired in 1975. In this period, Gear painted dynamic, diagonal black armatures against vibrant detonations of colour, perfecting a new, thrilling evocation of light pulsing through foliage. Towards the end of his life, Gear’s critical reputation was reinvigorated when an exhibition of CoBrA work revived interest in the movement, offering a variety of exhibition opportunities for Gear, one of only two British artists’ featured in the retrospective. He died in 1997 at the age of 83.

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