Spear, Francis

(1902 – 1979)

Poster The Insect Play, The Strand Theatre, circa 1926

SKU: 9208
Lino cut

Height: 81.3cm
Width: 53.3cm


Simon Spear, the artist’s son



The Insect Play, by  Karel and Josef Capek’s, was also known as The Insect Comedy, The World We Live In, and From Insect Life,was published in its original Czech in 1921.  The play was first performed at the National Theatre in Brno, Czechoslovakia, on March 8, 1922, running for about one hundred nights. The Insect Play made its American debut later in 1922, and its London premiere the following year in May 1923  at the Regent Theatre.  The principal characters are played by insects: a blind Ant, Mr and Mrs Beetle, a chrysalis.   In their depiction of the insect world, the Capeks comment on human vices, morals, and ethics; the impact of the first world war being an obvious catalyst.

For a full account of the play see:

Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February – 5 April, 2020

Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919–1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020

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Spear, Francis

1902 – 1979

Francis Howard Spear was born on 22nd December 1902 in South Norwood, south London.

He attended the LCC School of Arts and Crafts (which became the Central School of Arts and Design), he successfully passed Parts 1 and 2 of the Board of Education’s Examination in Industrial Design, specialising in stained glass in 1923.
While studying at the Central School in 1922, he became pupil-assistant to Martin Travers, the leading English practitioner of stained glass.

Spear won a National Scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1923, with a chosen specialism stained glass.

Francis Spear is an important, though not now well-know, figure in twentieth century English stained glass. His working career covers 50 years, from 1922 when he began working with Martin Travers, to 1972, when he ceased teaching at Reigate School of Art. Spear taught John Piper lithography.

During his career, he designed some notable windows, and a short list would include his earliest window, at Warwick School (1925), St. Olave’s in the City (1929), Snaith (1936), Beckenham (1948), Canterbury (1949), Glasgow Cathedral (1951, 1953, 1958), Highbury (1955), Westgate (1960) and Penarth (1962).

Francis Spear
Poster The Insect Play, The Strand Theatre, circa 1926
Francis Spear
Horse Race, 1934
Francis Spear
Saint Michael Killing Satan
Francis Spear
Martyr Soldier, 1941
Francis Spear
St. George and the Dragon, 1941
Francis Spear
Christ Derided, Nov 1942
Francis Spear
Design for Stained Glass Window, 1932
Francis Spear
The artist’s Mother sewing
Francis Spear
The Artist’s Boots, 1932
Francis Spear
Discarded shoes, circa 1925
Francis Spear
RCA Sketch ‘The Little Manor Farm’
Francis Spear
Woman scrubbing doorstep, 1924