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Gunner F. J. Mears (c.1890-1930)
The midst of battle,
Signed (upside down*), "Gnr FJ Mears RGA BEF"
and extensively inscribed to the reverse,
Watercolour with gold and silver paint over traces of pencil,
9¾ x 13½ inches

*A consistent feature of Mear's work is his upside-down signature; his response to a world that he believed had been turned on its head.


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"When there is not an eyelash left of you should you happen to be close to it. 

Roll on death let's have a long sleep"

(inscription verso)

This arresting image with a central explosion is markedly more dramatic than Mear's usual scenes of silhouetted figures under the cover of night. The more extensive palette corresponds with his very powerful Calvary scene (see illustration to the right); the two pictures forming poignant companion pieces.

The scant detail relating to Gunner F. J. Mear's life is made self-evident from the outset by the reduction of his forenames to initials, even after all this time. It has been established that he fought in WWI as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and that he was discharged due to injury or ill health in 1917.


His re-emergence as an artist can be traced to a review in the Nottingham Journal of 1920 of an exhibition at the George C. Clackner Gallery, 20 Old Bond Street, London with the strap line, "SOLDIER’S PICTURES BOUGHT BY DUKES AND DUCHESSES". Among the collectors of his work at the time were Lady Astor and the Duchess of Norfolk; the success of such exhibitions saved him from destitution.


Examples of his work are held by the Imperial War Museum. An exhibition at the The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow entitled, Brushes with War, features several works by Mears.

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