British painter, born in Hammersmith, London, the son of a coach-painter. He studied at Hammersmith School of Art, 1926–30, and the *Royal College of Art, 1931–4, and subsequently taught at various art schools, notably the RCA, where he was a tutor from 1948 to 1977. During the Second World War (when he was exempt from military service because of the after-effects of childhood polio) he took part in the ‘Recording Britain’ scheme (at this time he also played in various bands—he was an accomplished jazz pianist). Spear was best known for his portraits (including many of celebrities) and landscapes, especially views of Hammersmith: in the introduction to the catalogue of Spear's retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1980, his friend the painter Robert Buhler (1916–89) remarked that ‘one could say that Ruskin Spear has done for Hammersmith what *Sickert did for Camden Town’.
Text source: A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art (Oxford University Press)