Gallery set for William Gear exhibition

David Gear the son of William Gea, poses beside self-portraits of his late father. Picture: Ian Rutherford
David Gear the son of William Gea, poses beside self-portraits of his late father. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A FORGOTTEN artist who was one of the most radical painters of his generation is being given a new exhibition coinciding with the centenary of his birth.

Around 120 works by William Gear (1915-1997) go on show at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre tomorrow alongside a second exhibition focusing on other Scottish artists associated with him.

Gear was born in Methil, Fife, and studied at Edinburgh College of Art during the 1930s where he was taught by influential figures such as SJ Peploe, John Maxwell and William Gillies.

His first exhibition was with the Royal Scottish Academy and Society of Scottish Artists in 1934, and his postgraduate scholarship included History of Art studies with Professor David Talbot Rice at Edinburgh University.

He went on to train in Paris under the Cubist artist Fernand Léger before travelling widely during the Second World War, becoming one of the “Monuments Men” whose job it was to help save European cultural icons during and after the conflict.

He exhibited along with the avant-garde artists of the Cobra group in Amsterdam and Paris in 1949 and his work was shown in New York alongside paintings by Jackson Pollock.

He returned to live in the UK in 1950, and continued to exhibit both at home and internationally until his death.

The retrospective exhibition, William Gear: The painter that Britain forgot, seeks to re-position him as one of the most advanced British abstract painters of his time.

Culture leader Councillor Richard Lewis said: “How and why William Gear fell into obscurity is quite remarkable. Gear was an artist who was born in Fife, trained in Edinburgh and then went on to create some of the most radical compositions of the 1950s.

“He was one of the greats of British abstract art and his career and his works tell a fascinating story. These exhibitions cement his place as a pioneer and he is finally getting the ­recognition he deserves.”

The exhibition, which runs until February, traces his prolific career, from his early pen and ink drawings and experiments in colour during the 1930s and 1940s, to his radical monochrome and block paintings of the 1950s and mature works created during the 1960s and beyond. It has been created in partnership with the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, where Gear was curator from 1958-64.

Gear was one of the first British artists to present screenprints as works of fine art so the exhibition also presents his work as a printmaker. The exhibition includes loans from the Estate of William Gear, the Royal Academy of Arts, London and the Redfern Gallery amongst many other lenders.

The second exhibition, Jagged Generation: William Gear’s Contemporaries and Influences, presents a selection of artworks from the City Art Centre’s own collection.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com