Gear was a painter of abstract compositions, daringly powerful in colour, who made a significant contribution to European painting through his association with Cobra group in the immediate Post-War years.
Gear studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University Fine Art Class during 1932-37 under William Giles, John Maxwell and McTaggart, winning a travelling scholarship to Paris where he studied at the Académie Colarossi under Fernand Léger. On the strength of his scholarship he travelled to Italy, Greece and the Balkans. Gear became associated with the Cobra group upon his return to Paris in 1947, a short-lived but important grouping of artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Antwerp. Gear’s Cobra paintings are considered a significant contribution to European 20th century painting. Back in Paris Gear met Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulages and Serge Poliakkof and became part of the ‘Art Informel’ movement, a wide denomination for related types of Abstract Painting. In Paris he also met Milton Rosnick, Marcarelli and Rothko.
He exhibited in America with Jackson Pollock in 1949 before returning to London in 1950 and winning a Festival of Britain Purchase Prize the following year. In 1952 his work was exhibited in Japan, New York, Sao Paulo and at the Venice Biennale in 1954.
Gear became Curator of the Tower Art Gallery in Eastbourne in 1964 and in the same year Head of the Faculty of Fine Art at Birmingham University until 1975, when he was awarded the Lorne Fellowship. He was elected a Senior RA in 1995.
In 1987 at the Redfern Gallery, London, a fifty-year retrospective exhibition was held, follow
ed by a touring exhibition organised by the Aberdeen Art Gallery, 1997-8.
Public collections include
City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham
Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow
Insituto de Arte Contemporaneo, Lima, Peru
Museum of Art, Ohio
Museum of Art, Tel Aviv
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Scottish Art Council, Edinburgh
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
McEWEN John, William Gear, Lund Humphries, 2003.
LAMBIRTH, Andrew, Willam Gear, Samson & Company, 2015.
2015, William Gear 1915-1997: The painter that Britain forgot, Towner Museum, Eastbourne. A Touring Exhibition: 2016, City Art Centre, Edinburgh; William Gear: A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, London.
2011, William Gear: Into the Sixties, Redfern Gallery, London.
2007, William Gear: Into the Fifties, Redfern Gallery, London.
1997, William Gear Golden Jubilee Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, London; William Gear, Sprengel Museum, Hanover.
1996, Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg
1995, William Gear - Past and Present Friends, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham; Gear and Heron, Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh.
1992, William Gear 1950-70, Leeman Art Gallery, Amsterdam; William Gear, Galerie Gabriele von Loeper, Hamburg; William Gear CoBrA and After, Galerie Doris Wullkopf, Darmstadt; William Gear, Paintings 1955-56, Redfern Gallery, London.
1990, 75th Birthday Exhibition, Paintings and Works on Paper, Cobra and After, Redfern Gallery, London; Kunsthandel Leeman Amsterdam.
1989, Galerie Gabriele Von Loeper. Hamburg.
1988, Karl & Faber, Munich; Cobrabstractions 1946-1949, Galerie 1900-2000, Paris.
1987, The CoBrA Years 1948-1951, Redfern Gallery, London.
1985, Retrospective Exhibition, Kircaldy Art Gallery, Fife and Netherbow Art Centre, Edinburgh.
1983, Painting into Landscape, Spacex Gallery, Exeter.
1982, Retrospective Exhibition, Talbot Rice Art Centre, University of Edinburgh and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.
1980, North Staffs Polytechnic, Stoke.
1976, Retrospective Exhibition, R B S A Galleries, Birmingham.
1969, Paintings 1948-68, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Scottish Arts Council Belfast, Londonderry and Glasgow.
1967, Gimpel Fils, London and Bonython Galleries, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
1966, Joint exhibition with Alan Davie, Edinburgh Festival, Commonwealth Institute Gallery, Edinburgh.
1965, Birmingham University and Midland Group, Nottingham.
1964, Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford.
1962, Retrospective Exhibition, Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne and Bolton, Bristol, Bradford, Leicester, Nottingham, Oldham and Portsmouth.
1961, Retrospective Exhibition, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London.
1960, The Stone Gallery, Newcastle.
1958, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London.
1957, Joint exhibition with Sandra Blow, Saidenberg Gallery, New York.
1954, Retrospective Exhibition, South London Gallery, London.
1952, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London.
1951, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London.
1949, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London; Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.
1948, Gimpel Fils Gallery, London; Galerie Arc en Ciel, Paris.
1947, Celle and Hamburg.
1944, Galleria Michelangelo, Florence.