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Fosse Gallery to host major exhibition of artist William Gear's work

A major exhibition of prints and other works by artist William Gear (1915-1997), many of which never seen before in public, will be held at the Fosse Gallery in Stow-in-the-Wold on 5-25 February 2017.  The collection of 50 pieces, with over a third of them being limited edition prints, ranges from £500 upwards.

During his early years as an artist, Gear became closely involved with printmaking, but it was not until the post-war years that his work really expanded. This is evident by the quantity he produced between 1949 and 1972 - 49 print editions. 22 of these are included in the exhibition.  The earliest prints date back to 1949, the time of Gear's Paris sojourn (1947-1950), when he worked with the eccentric lithographer, Jean Pons, whose atelier was accessible through a trap door in the floor of a ladies' dress shop, and once a former hide-out used by the war-time French Resistance as a clandestine printing works.

During this time, he produced such works as 'Black Element', which was considered significant for its cross-references to visual elements found in his paintings.

William Gear, Black Element, 1950, lithograph, edition of 25, 18 x 13 inches

William Gear, Black Element, 1950, lithograph, edition of 25, 18 x 13 inches

He continued to work with Pons after moving to Buckinghamshire in 1950, but soon felt restricted by the collaborations with lithographic technicians and after 1956, he made no further lithographs.  He was struck with the potential of silk-screen printing when the technique was demonstrated to him by American printer Dorr Bothwell. The opportunity to try it for himself came in 1952, when an artist friend helped him scavenge parts to construct a rudimentary silk-screen frame, though the material he used was not silk, but organdie cotton cut from one of his wife's dresses. This occasion made Gear one of the pioneers in Britain to experiment with silk-screen printing.

One of his creations from this period, 'Orange-Black' (1952), is featured in this exhibition, though at the time of its creation, galleries were reluctant to accept screen prints as a 'valid artistic medium'. 

William Gear (1915-1997)  Orange-Black, 1952, screenprint, edition of 20, 22 x 15 inches

William Gear, Orange-Black, 1952, screenprint, edition of 20, 22 x 15 inches

He went on to also experiment with relief printing in styles that reflected his own fabric and wallpaper designs. By 1958, he'd returned to screen printing, with works such as 'Coast' (1962) that reflected his nearby Sussex Coast. All further editions were screen prints, up until his final productions in 1988 with 'Ragged Form'.

William Gear, Ragged Form, 1988, screenprint, edition of 25, 22 x 30 inches

William Gear, Ragged Form, 1988, screenprint, edition of 25, 22 x 30 inches

Gear's work has been recognised and included in many British collections, including the British Museum, Tate Britain, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Interestingly, some print editions are now even more 'limited', due to the fate of a few prints.  A few were 'lost in overseas action' after their purchase by the British Council, a couple were described as having fallen victim to the 1955 Greco-Turkish sectarian conflict in Cyprus, and a 1949 lithograph was recorded in 1979 as 'eaten by ants in Pakistan'!

William Gear, Dagger, 1971, screenprint, edition of 10, 23 x 18 inches

William Gear, Dagger, 1971, screenprint, edition of 10, 23 x 18 inches

The exhibition takes place at The Fosse Gallery, The Manor House, The Square, Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire GL54 1AF, on 5-25 February 2017. For more information, visit The Fosse Gallery.