Ruskin Spear (Hammersmith 1911 - London 1990)

The Artist’s Father Seated in an Interior Sold

Pencil and black chalk, with stumping, with touches of orange and white chalk, on buff paper.
Inscribed RUSKIN SPEAR / 20 RIVERCOURT RD / HAMMERSMITH. W6. / STUDY OF AN OLD MAN on a printed War Economy Label pasted onto the old backing board.
Further inscribed To be collected by / JOHN BERGER / Whitechapel Art Gallery / c/o Alfred Stiles & Sons on a label pasted onto the old backing board.
307 x 366 mm. (12 1/8 x 14 3/8 in.)


This is a portrait of the artist’s father Augustus, drawn in 1932. The drawing was singled out for praise by Ruskin Spear’s biographer Mervyn Levy: ‘It is in his portraits of his family and his friends that his essential humanity is most apparent, although his empathy with his subject is always conveyed with restraint. This applies in particular to his portrayals of old age. The emotive content is always tightly controlled – concise and contained…There is compassion without sentimentality. Even in the study of the painter’s father, drawn in 1932 when the artist was only twenty-one, there is no excess of feeling, no self-indulgence. It is a statement about old age, brilliantly drawn and strikingly objective. I know of no better example of the artist’s powers of draughtsmanship.’

A painting by Spear of his father, painted around 1932 and entitled In the Parlour, shows him standing in what appears to be the same room, and smoking a pipe while reading a newspaper.

Lady Gwendolen Herbert.

Mervyn Levy, Ruskin Spear, London, 1985, pp.31 and 45, illustrated p.12, fig.4.

Ruskin SPEAR

The Artist’s Father Seated in an Interior


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