Spring Song

William Gear (1915 - 1997)

Oil on canvas

February 1951
  • About the work
    Country: Other
    City: other locations abroad
    Spring Song is an abstract painting composed of grey lines, transecting a mottled green background which is punctuated with daubs of orange paint. The title suggests an allegorical interpretation of the work in terms of new growth; with the orange and lighter green areas of paint suggesting spring buds and shoots emerging from the darkest depths of winter.

    In September 1950, William Gear and his family moved to the Chiltern woodlands in Buckinghamshire. There, Gear painted a series of canvases including Spring Song, which captured  the dappled sunlight seen through the canopies of leaves in the beech trees near his home. Another of these works, Autumn Landscape, was exhibited in the 1951 Festival of Britain – the national exhibition of design and manufacturing that celebrated a renewed optimism in post-war Britain. Despite their pastoral titles, Gear intimated that the web-like lines – which formed the basis of his paintings between 1950 and 1953 – were in fact inspired by the tangled debris he had witnessed during the Second World War.

    In the catalogue for the 1952 British exhibition at the Venice Biennale, art critic Herbert Read identified the anxiety felt by a generation of artists who had served in the War, illustrated through an ‘iconography of despair’. Referring to the work of sculptors such as Reg Butler and Lynn Chadwick, Read suggested their forms represented the ‘geometry of fear’. This analysis might also be applied to paintings by William Gear, with their brooding colours and intense and trenchant lines.

  • About the artist

  • Explore
    abstract, spring
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Spring Song
    February 1951
    Oil on canvas
    height: 122.00 cm, width: 81.20 cm
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 28 June 2006
    verso, tl: Gear / "SPRING SONG" / FEB. '51
    Collection of Howard Bliss; with Gimpel Fils in 1969 and 1984; from whom purchased by unknown private dealer; sold through Sotheby's, London, on 28 June 2006 (Lot 94); from which sale purchased by the Government Art Collection
    GAC number