William Gear RA (d. 1997)
William Gear, painter of abstracts in oil, watercolour and gouache, was born in Fife, Scotland, on 2nd August 1915, the son of Janet Gear and Porteous Gear, a coal miner. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1932 – 6, gaining a postgraduate scholarship that enabled him to study art at Edinburgh University from 1936 -7. Winning a travelling scholarship enabled him to visit Italy, Greece, and the Balkans and to study in Paris with Fernand Leger.
After serving throughout the Second World War as an officer in the Royal Corps of Signals he settled in Paris where he met many of the leading post-war Parisian artists. After meeting Appel, Constant, Corneille and Jorn, he joined the COBRA group, Europe’s most important avant-garde movement of the mid – twentieth century. COBRA is an acronym based on Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam in acknowledgement of the founders’ nationalities and to emphasise the internationalism of their attitude.
The COBRA painters emphasised spontaneity – an image, they felt, should appear on the canvas as naturally and quickly as a sudden change of weather in the world beyond the window. And it ought to be as impersonal as a thunderstorm.
William Gear exhibited with the group in Amsterdam and Copenhagen in 1949; however, beyond his association with COBRA he had a long and successful career in his own right. For example, he was awarded a Festival of Britain Purchase Prize in 1951 and his work appeared at the 1954 Venice Biennale. He became a Senior Royal Academician in 1995 and his work is held in many major public and private collections around the world.
From quite early in his career Gear demonstrated a fondness for heavy black line as a division of colour – predominantly reds, yellows and oranges. He acknowledged that this probably derived in part from his childhood – subconscious memories of the pit-head winding gear and the engineering marvel of the Forth Bridge. He regarded structure – the architecture, like a building, the scaffolding as the most essential basis of his painting. William Gear, RA is essential viewing for all those interested in twentieth-century British art.