Thursday, November 17, 2016




The Manor House
The Square

Stow on the Wold

Gloucestershire GL54 1AF

01451 831319

WILLIAM GEAR (1915-1997)


5th – 25th February 2017

A major exhibition of prints and other works on paper by William Gear is taking place at The Fosse Gallery, The Manor House, The Square, Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire GL54 1AF from 5th - 25th February 2017. All the works in the exhibition come directly from the Gear estate and the great majority of the 50 works on paper have never been seen in public before.

This is the fourth William Gear exhibition staged by The Fosse Gallery but the most significant difference from the previous exhibitions is that in this one, over a third of the works are limited edition prints. 

It was generally unknown that Gear was a print-maker and all the prints in the exhibition are genuinely limited as the largest edition he ever produced was 50 and the norm was 25 or fewer. Prices range from £500 upwards.

William Gear became closely involved in print-making during the early stages of his artistic development, although it was arguably not until the post-war years that it showed a conspicuous flowering. This is evident by the quantity which he produced between 1949 and 1972 - some 49 separate print editions, 22 of which are included in this exhibition.

The earliest prints in this exhibition date from 1949 and the chronological choice of 1949 is deliberate, for it was during his Paris sojourn (1947-50) that William Gear embarked on a significant foray into print-making, when he made contact with the somewhat eccentric lithographer, Jean Pons. 

His address turned out to be a ladies' dress shop, and though slightly perturbed at this, he characteristically entered the premises. His request to see Monsieur Pons might just as well have constituted a secret password, for the proprietress swept aside a rug on the floor, and lifted a trap-door hidden underneath. 

She then called down to the men in the room below, a former hide-out used by the war-time French Resistance as a clandestine printing works, which had subsequently become Jean Pons' atelier.

One of the lithographs William Gear produced there was 'Black Element' 1950, an interestingly significant work because of its noticeable cross-references to visual elements found in his contemporaneous paintings - both oils on canvas, and gouache, ink and pencil sketches on paper. 

Such an art historical echo is perhaps acknowledged by its inclusion in the permanent collections of the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and Fort Lauderdale (USA) Museum of Art. Other fairly obvious examples of such media 'cross-fertilisation' in the exhibition are 'Spike' 1969 and 'Dagger' 1971, both of which bear ready comparison with oil paintings of their period.

Even after he moved to Buckinghamshire in 1950, William Gear continued to liaise with Jean Pons, resulting in such fruitful examples as 'Trellis' 1952 but he felt rather restricted by the necessary collaborations with lithographic technicians, and after 1956 produced no further lithographs. However, since the 1930s transatlantic artists had been using the medium of silk-screen printing, and when the American printer Dorr Bothwell showed him some prints produced using the technique, he was struck by its potential. 

The opportunity to try it out in practice came in 1952, when an old friend from his Edinburgh days, who had been a commercial artist, helped him scavenge the necessary parts to construct a rudimentary silk-screen frame, even if the actual material used was not actually silk, but some organdie cotton cut from one of his wife's old dresses.

It was thus that William Gear became one of the pioneers in Britain to experiment with silk-screen printing. In fact it is historically revealing to know that when he first showed some examples to the Redfern Gallery, it was initially reluctant to accept screen-prints as a 'valid artistic medium' - such was their novelty. Fortunately, it has been possible to include one of these 'controversial' prints in this exhibition - 'Orange-Black' 1952.

During the mid-1950s he experimented with relief printing, examples such as 'Still Life' 1955 and 'Imposition' 1956 being especially redolent of the period's visual zeitgeist, and in particular his own fabric and wallpaper designs. 

By 1958, William Gear had returned to screen-printing, with such works as 'Coast' 1962 influenced by the marine moods of the Sussex coast nearby. All further editions were screen-prints, right up until his final productions in 1988 with 'Ragged Form'.

Art historians and curators attuned to developments in British 20th century print-making, as well as some collectors, have long been alert to William Gear's work in this field. This is particularly reflected by the inclusion of his prints in over a dozen British public collections, including the British Museum, Tate Britain, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.

Interestingly, some print editions are now even more 'limited' than when they were originally produced. A few examples were 'lost in overseas action' after their purchase by the British Council. 

Its archive implies, for example, that a couple fell victim to the 1955 Greco-Turkish sectarian conflict in Cyprus. However, the fate of a 1949 lithograph is more specific and dramatic, as it was simply recorded in 1979 as 'eaten by ants in Pakistan'........

The complete exhibition can be viewed on-line at from mid January. Opening hours are Monday - Saturday, 10.30am to 5.00pm.

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