Low Tide

Ruskin Spear (1911 - 1990)

Oil on board

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© Courtesy of the artist's estate/Bridgeman Art Library

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  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Other
    City: other locations abroad

    A tranquil scene of a beach at low tide, the seascape represented in this painting by Ruskin Spear is most likely to be in Cornwall where he frequently painted. The pale tones he has used to suggest the sky, sea and beach, complement each other, moving seamlessly from grey to blue and then to green in the foreground. Low Tide reveals stylistic influences from the Newlyn School of painting, an artistic colony that had been established in the Cornish fishing village in 1880. The Newlyn artists favoured scenes of daily life, painted out of doors, in order to capture the natural effects of light and air. 


    Ruskin Spear, known chiefly as a portraitist and landscape painter, was born in Hammersmith, where he lived for most of his life. At the age of 15, he won a scholarship to Hammersmith School of Art followed by a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where he studied from 1931 to 1934 under Sir William Rothenstein. 


    Spear executed commissions for the War Artists Advisory Committee and participated in the 'Recording Britain' scheme from 1940 to 1945. Influenced by Walter Richard Sickert and the Euston Road School of painters, he became best known for his flamboyant and satirical portraits, some based on photojournalism. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1944 and Royal Academician in 1954. From 1948 to 1975 he taught at the Royal College of Art and became President of the London Group of artists in 1949. 


    Spear exhibited widely in Britain: his first solo show was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1951 after which his pictures were in popular demand. He was awarded a CBE in 1979 and a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Royal Academy in 1980. The sitters of some of his commissioned portraits included Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Ralph Richardson, Prime Minister Harold Wilson (for which the Government Art Collection owns the oil study) and Francis Bacon.

  • About the artist
    Ruskin Spear, known chiefly as a painter of portraits and landscapes, was born and lived throughout his life in Hammersmith, west London. His father was a coach painter and his ambitious mother expected him to live up to the names she chose for him: Augustus, John, Ruskin, after the celebrated British artists Augustus John (1878–1961) and John Ruskin (1819–1900). He won a scholarship to Hammersmith School of Art at the age of fifteen, and another scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where he studied from 1931 to 1934. Spear executed commissions for the War Artists Advisory Committee and took part in the ‘Recording Britain’ scheme, sponsored by the Pilgrim Trust, from 1940 to 1945. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1944 and Royal Academician in 1954. From 1948 to 1975 he was tutor at the Royal College of Art and was made President of the London Group in 1949. His first solo exhibition was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1951. He was awarded a CBE in 1979 and a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Royal Academy in 1980.
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    Materials & Techniques
    board, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Title
    Low Tide
    Date
    Medium
    Oil on board
    Dimensions
    height: 63.50 cm, width: 76.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Fieldbourne Galleries, February 1976
    Inscription
    br: Ruskin Spear
    GAC number
    12216