Abstract painter William Gear (1915–1997) was Towner’s curator from 1958 until 1964. During this time, he added to the diversity and modernity of the permanent Collection with his acquisitions. These included paintings by major British Abstract artists of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Sandra Blow, Alan Davie, Roger Hilton and Ceri Richards, and prints by both young and established printmakers.
So successful was he in increasing the reputation of Towner, that in 1962 the Observer newspaper hailed it as the ‘most go-ahead municipal gallery of its size in the country’.
This Collection Display celebrates Gear’s time at Towner and brings together some of the key purchases and acquisitions that demonstrate the important role he played in the gallery’s story.
Highlights from A Radical View include paintings such as Ceri Richard’s Poissons d’Or (1963), Edward Wadsworth’s Bronze Ballet (1940), Alan Davie's Sea Gate (1960), Ivon Hitchens’ Evening Sky Over Hills (1957), and Edward Burra’s Soldiers’ Backs (1942).
A large selection of prints, comprising nearly half the show, will include Anthony Gross’s Landscape with Junipers, Elizabeth Blackadder’s Tuscan Landscape and Meryln Evans’ Vertical Suite in Black: Helmet Mask (1957).
2015 is the centenary of Gear’s birth. A Radical View accompanies Towner’s main summer exhibition, William Gear 1915-1997: The painter that Britain forgot (18 July to 27 September 2015). This large-scale retrospective seeks to position Gear in his rightful place as one of the most advanced abstract painters in Britain. The exhibition will trace his work, from the radical near-monochrome abstractions of the 1950s to the exuberance of his mature style from the 1960s, to his death in 1997.
Gear’s centenary is also being marked by a new book, entitled William Gear, written by art critic Andrew Lambirth and published by Sansom & Co. The book will go on sale in July 2015.