Jerwood Foundation

William Gear (1915-1997)

Winter Landscape, 1955

  • Details

    (c) Estate of William Gear, All Rights Reserved 2013/Bridgeman Art Library

  • Medium

    oil on canvas

  • Dimensions

    36 x 24 in. (91.5 x 61 cm.)

  • Provenance


  • Exhibited

    Room 3, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

  • Literature

    M. Sturgis, Jerwood, The Foundation and the Founders, Norwich, 2009, illustrated on the front cover.
    Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.31. Illustrated p.16.

  • On Display

    Room 3, Jerwood Gallery Hastings

Painted in 1955, Winter Landscape demonstrates Gear’s continuing interest in landscape painting. By this time he had moved away from the expressionistic style of the CoBrA group of artists, and developed a distinctive, more abstract approach to his work. Gear has chosen to work with a limited colour palette here, perhaps to convey the starkness of winter. A line of red cuts across Gear’s characteristic use of black paint, suggesting a glowing horizon.
When talking about Gear’s work of this period, art critic John McEwen commented, ‘Gear’s dedication and logical certainty never flagged. This is as much the hallmark of the stark paintings he did in 1955-6 … as of his other work. The year began with him painting solely in grey, brown and assertive black, limited by February to the pure geometry of Landscape No. 2, no more than a rectangular division of black and white’ (William Gear, Aldershot, 2003, p. 72).

Born in Fife, the son of a coal miner, Gear attended Edinburgh College of Art (1932-37) before travelling to Paris with the assistance of a scholarship. He was called up to the army in 1940 and was demobilised with the rank of Major. In Paris Stephen Gilbert introduced Gear to the CoBrA group (named as the artists hailed from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam). Gilbert and Gear participated in three CoBrA shows, the only British artists to do so. Gear also met Alan Davie and Eduardo Paolozzi and many of the leading post-war generation of Parisian artists, including De Staël, Dubuffet and Soulages.
Gear is sometimes associated with the St Ives school of artists and in 1948 he travelled to Cornwall and met Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon and Bryan Wynter. Gear’s first solo show was held at Gimpel Fils in 1953 and a year later he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. Retrospective exhibitions included: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1954); Gimpel Fils, London (1961); Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne (1962); and Redfern Gallery, London (1997).
In 1958 Gear was appointed curator of Towner Art Gallery and during his three years in the post he had an enormously positive impact on the gallery’s purchasing policy. Gear was elected Senior Royal Academician in 1995.