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Gunner F J Mears: watercolours from the Great War


Gunner F J Mears: watercolours from the Great War

This year’s centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, has evoked much renewed interest in the art that originated from that devastating conflict. John Mitchell Fine Paintings are offering four works for sale by Gunner F J Mears, two of them dated 1916 (please see under Artists).
Not much is known about Gunner Mears. He served on the Western Front in the Royal Garrison Artillery at the Ypres salient and also on the Somme. It is believed that he was commissioned by the War Office as an official artist but his work lay largely undiscovered until a London gallery exhibited thirty of his drawings in 1920. His haunting nocturnal images of the Messines Road with shadowy figures hurrying from shell-blasts, or columns of men trudging wearily to the front line, faceless and anonymous, caused a stir in the refines of Old Bond Street. The Duke of Norfolk, Lady Astor and General Gough were just a few of the distinguished buyers from that sell out exhibition that rescued Mears from poverty.
His period watercolours are signed and dated (usually 1916 or 1917) upside-down. When asked why he inverted his signature Mears replied "The whole of the World is upside down... Why then should my signature only be the right way up?" Later undated works often depicted the same tree lined roads, however, the Grim Reaper had replaced the figures of soldiers. He died in 1929 as a result of gas inhalations sustained during the war.