The British water-colourist, oil-painter, and book-illustrator Charles Pears (9 September 1873-28 January 1958) was a distinguished member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and the RSMA (Royal Society of Marine Artists), and enjoyed an artistic career spanning seven decades. Born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, he studied nearby at East Hardwick and Pomfret College, during which period of training he acquired an appreciation for the marine paintings and cityscapes of Italian painter Canaletto. Entering the profession of artist at age seventeen, Pears was initially a book illustrator, working for such periodicals such as The Yellow Book, Punch, and The Graphic; he illustrated such volume works as Salt-Water Poems and the Ballads of John Masefield. However, Charles Pears is best remembered as a painter of marinescapes, on which he usually signed himself "Chas Pears." His works were exhibited from 1904 to 1939 in London , and he also wrote a number of books on small boat cruising. During that period between moving to London in 1904 and the outbreak of the First World War, he illustrated books. His most famous commission was the illustration of the Centenary Edition, 30 volumes of the works of Charles Dickens issued by Waverley, London, between 1912 and 1918. Charles Pears was a prolific poster artist for the London Underground, producing highly effective posters in a range of styles. He also created posters for the Empire Marketing Board and the Metropolitan Railway.

A commissioned officer in the Royal Marines during the First World War, Pears worked also worked as an official War Artist during both the First and Second World Wars. His Second World War poster entitled MV San Demetrio gets home, issued by the Post Office Savings Bank, is now part of the collection of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. From 1913 to 1936, Pears was a prolific poster artist, working for London Underground, the Empire Marketing Board, the Metropolitan Railway, the Southern Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and British Railways. Pears moved to Saint Mawes, Cornwall, in semi-retirement, and died in Truro on 28 January 1958. One may see his work on display in the collections of such London galleries as the Transport Museum, National Maritime Museum, National Railway Museum, Imperial War Museum, and the Tate. His talent is still honoured in a prize at the Royal Society of Marine Artists, the Charles Pears Memorial Award.

Among the books he illustrated over a lifetime are From the Thames to the Seine, J. A. Barry's Sea Yarns (1910), Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1908), Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Lady Geraldine's Courtship (1906), Yachting on the Sunshine Coast (1902), From the Thames to the Netherlands (1902), Book of poems by Whittier, Dickens's The Chimes (1910), Washington Irving's Old Christmas, and Robert Browning's Christmas Eve in art nouveau, and Johnann David Wyss's Swiss Family Robinson. — Philip V. Allingham

Related material



Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. The Waverley​ Edition. Illustrated by Charles Pears. London: Waverley, 1912.

Last modified 22 March 2015