William Gear Exhibition at Fosse Gallery, Stow-on-the-Wold

William Gear Exhibition at Fosse Gallery, Stow-on-the-Wold

Sunday 5 February – Saturday 25 February

Exhibition at Fosse Gallery, Stow-on-the-Wold

A major exhibition of prints from 1949–1996 and other works on paper by the 20th century artist William Gear…

William Gear (1915–1997) 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 evidenced by the quantity which he produced between 1949 and 1972: 49 separate print editions, 22 of which are included in this exhibition.

The earliest prints on display date from 1949. The choice of this moment in Gear’s career is significant, as it was during his Paris sojourn (1947–50) that the artist embarked on a significant foray into print-making. This was when he made contact with the somewhat eccentric French lithographer Jean Pons. One of the lithographs Gear produced around this time was Black Element 1950, a significant work because of its cross-references to visual elements found in his contemporaneous paintings. 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. However, he felt rather restricted by the necessary collaborations with lithographic technicians, and after 1956 produced no
further lithographs. 

Since the 1930s, transatlantic artists had been using the medium of silk-screen printing, and when the American printer Dorr Bothwell showed Gear some prints produced using the technique, he was struck by its potential. The opportunity to try it out in practice came in 1952 and he became one of the pioneers in Britain to experiment with silk-screen printing. During the mid-1950s, he also experimented with relief printing: examples such as Still Life 1955 and Imposition 1956 being especially redolent of the period’s visual zeitgeist.

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.

The artist’s prints are included 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. 

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. All the prints in the exhibition are genuinely limited as the largest edition he ever produced was 50, with the norm being 25 or fewer. 

Interestingly, some of his 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: it was simply recorded in 1979 as “eaten by ants in Pakistan”.

The works on display come directly from the Gear estate and the great majority of the 50 works on paper have never been seen in public before. All are for sale, with prices ranging from £500 upwards.

The complete exhibition can be viewed on Fosse Gallery’s website from mid-January. The gallery itself is open Monday to Saturday, from 10:30am–5pm. 

The Fosse Gallery, Stow on the Wold: 01451 831319 / GL54 1AF / fossegallery.com

Highlights from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

Highlights from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

Exhibition in Spotlight: Lucy Pratt

Exhibition in Spotlight: Lucy Pratt