Nottingham Journal/Art in a Garret
Art in a Garret
Soldier's Pictures Bought by Dukes and Duchesses
In a small bed-sitting-room (without a bed) a London metal worker is painting war pictures which are bought by dukes and duchesses. He and his wife work, sleep, wash clothes, and have their meals in a room about 9ft by 6ft at the top of 13, Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road.
There is no bed in the garret, partly because there is no room for it, and also because Mr. F. J. Mears, late of the R.G.A., cannot afford to buy one. So he and his wife sleep on the floor.
Before the war Mr. Mears was a metal worker of exceptional skill, earning good wages. He was gassed and knocked about in Flanders, and invalided out of the Army two years ago with a disablement pension of 8s a week. He went back to his old trade, but found the work too heavy for him.
Shared a Kipper.
Compelled to give up his work, he decided to express, by means of art, what he had seen and felt in Flanders. He knew nothing of drawing it. He had never had instructions of any kind, but he and his wife agreed to spend a little money they had left in buying brushes, paint and paper.
Then they starved. One day they shared a kipper, another day they had a few potatoes. But Mrs. Mears, a slim, fragile women, believed in the genius of her husband, and encouraged him to persevere. Thus stimulated, he painted a picture which expressed the whole spirit of the war—of war as it is, as the solider sees it, and not as seen by the conventional artist.
A Real Picture of War.
It was a picture of a shattered, splintered trees crying aloud, as Mr. Mears himself puts it, against the horrors of it all, of dark sinister pools of mud, of a troubled sky, and of insignificant little crouching figures running across a shell-swept road. It expressed—what the artist had wanted to express—the utter insignificance of men crushed by the pitiless machine of war.
Dame Furse of the Wrens, happened to pass the shop in Piccadilly where the picture—a water-colour in a monotone of blue—was shown in the the window. She bought it at once. That night Mr. and Mrs. Mears had their first meal for weeks.
He painted more pictures, all burning with the same idea, and he took them round to 20, Old Bond-street, where 30 are now exhibited.
The Duchess of Norfolk bought one. Lord Wodehouse, Lady Astor, Major-General Ponsonby, Major-General Gough, and Miss Elsie Janis bough several. A countess took away a study of the men in the road in her Rolls-Royce.
Few, probably, suspected that the man who had painted these singularly powerful criticisms of war was an invalid metal worker living with his wife in a bed-sitting room (without a bed) up a squalid passage in Tottenham Court-road.