Ruskin Spear

1911–1990

Biography

Ruskin Spear, CBE, RA (30 June 1911 – 17 January 1990) was an English painter and teacher of art, regarded as one of the foremost British portrait painters of his day. Born in Hammersmith, Spear attended the local art school before going on to the Royal College of Art in 1930. He began his teaching career at Croydon School of Art, later teaching at the Royal College of Art from 1948 to 1975, where his students included Sandra Blow. Initially influenced by Walter Sickert, the Camden Town Group, and the portraiture of the Euston Road School, his work often has a narrative quality, with elements of humour and gentle satire. As one of the thirty eight Official War Artists in Britain in the Second World War, between 1942–44, Spear was commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of Kenneth Clark, given a short-term contract, and producing several works for the scheme.

Because he used a wheelchair due to childhood polio, much of his work concerned his immediate surroundings. He rendered the citizens of Hammersmith relaxing in and around the local pubs, theatres and shops. In 1980, a retrospective of Spear's work was held at the Royal Academy in London.

Spear's paintings are held in important public collections in the United Kingdom, including the Tate Gallery Collection, Arts Council England, National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, Government Art Collection and the Royal Academy of Arts, and worldwide. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979. Spear was the father of musician Roger Ruskin Spear.

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Artworks

Artist as subject

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