William Gear || Andrew Lambirth

William Gear was one of only two British artists to be included in the CoBrA (Copenhagen/Brussels/Amsterdam) Group, Europe’s answer to American Abstract Expressionism, itself a short-lived but explosive movement. As a result, his reputation was largely international: Scottish by birth, he spent a lot of time in Paris in the late 1940’s, but returned to the UK in 1950.

His fame increased exponentially with Autumn Landscape, a controversial piece painted for 1951’s Festival of Britain and he became one of the leading innovators of that decade. Autumn Landscape is highly abstract and caused considerable shockwaves, this not being a familiar style at the time. It is, however, heavily influenced by the dapped light he saw in the hedgerows of Buckinghamshire where he had settled. Looked at now, it is more of a piece of classic abstractionism that nevertheless retains the quintessential Englishness of what had gone before and might even be regarded as “safe”.

Andrew Lambirth’s majestic study is both a biography and an account of Gear’s art and working methods. It is thoroughly illustrated and might even qualify partly as a catalogue raisonné, although you may find the indexing hard to navigate.

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