Ruskin Spear was born in Hammersmith and at age of 15, he won a scholarship to Hammersmith School of Art. Later, in 1930, another scholarship took him to the Royal College of Art, where he studied there under William Rothenstein, Gilbert Spencer and Charles Mahoney. He began his teaching career at Croydon School of Art, and then going on to teach at the Royal College of Art from 1948 to 1975. He was made a RA in 1954 and in 1957 he exhibited at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
Spear was influenced by Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group.
Today, Spear is one of Britain’s best loved and most respected artists of the twentieth century. His work has a narrative quality, with elements of humour and gentle satire.
Much of his work focused on his immediate surroundings because he used a wheelchair due to childhood polio. He painted the people of Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush as well as the regulars in his local pubs – the Hampshire Hog and the Ravenscourt Arms. These paintings express his powers of observation and his attachment to the local environment with a deep warmth of feeling.
Spear was also a 1st rate portrait painter and painted many distinguished Politicians, members of the Royal Family and Actors in his life time. These include Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Harold Wilson and Princess Anne.
He also clearly had a love of Cats, with many wonderful paintings of Cats to his name. Today, these are particularly sought-after by collectors. Recently, Spear’s iconic ‘Cat in a Box’ painting has been reproduced as a Greeting Card by the RA.
Ruskin Spear Legacy
A large number of Spear’s paintings are held in important public collections, including the Government Art Collection, Arts Council England, National Portrait Gallery, Imperial War Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts.
In 1979 Spear was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and a major retrospective of Spear’s work was held at the Royal Academy the following year.
Today, Spear’s Grandson, Tim manages a website dedicated to his Granfather’s life and work. It can be found here
With interest as strong as ever in Spears work, Dr Tanya Harrod has been commissioned by the Francis Bacon Estate to write a study of the work of Ruskin Spear. This will be published by Thames & Hudson in 2021 and is eagerly awaited.
All 126 of Ruskin Spear’s paintings in Public Collections can be found here
Trent Art’s other paintings by Ruskin Spear can be found here
Bridgeman Images have 174 of Spear’s on their website and they can be found here
If you own paintings by Ruskin Spear and you would like to sell please do contact us. In addition, we are also interested in acquiring Exhibition Catalogues from the 1940’s onwards.