More Categories


Private Collection, UK


Arts Council, London, Recent British Painting, 1954, cat no.54


A rumbustious, larger than life character himself, Ruskin Spear’s paintings, particularly those which take as their subject the streets and shops, pubs and cafes, theatres and snooker halls of his native Hammersmith are, by contrast, notable for their extreme delicacy of touch and the affectionate subtlety of their observation. They are qualities which, taken together with the dark low-toned colour Spear so often used in them, make for inevitable comparisons with Sickert’s Camden Town paintings. While these undoubtedly provided a model, one senses in a work like Public Bar an element of sardonic humour in the characterisation of the pub’s inhabitants which, combined with the gleaming brass bar-handles, beer glasses and sweaty foreheads, gives the scene a seedy but unmistakable glamour almost equally reminiscent of Hogarth and the 18th Century. A close contemporary and friend of Carel Weight, under whom he taught for many years at the Royal College of Art, Spear’s reputation as a vivid and masterly chronicler of ordinary London life in the mid-20th Century is bound to gain strength in years to come.