Pears might be less populist than apples, but they have been immortalised in paint for thousands of years. They are considered symbols of longevity, abundance, good health, and happiness. As well as reminiscent of the female form and women’s fertility.

Can we read these symbols into the paintings of pears in the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition?

Lillias August RI Two Fat Pears Watercolour, 19 x 33 cm (38 x 50 cm framed) £800

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Lillias describes this as “Two ripe pears leaning on each other” – they certainly look like old friends to me. ‘Two Fat Ladies’ enjoying each other’s company and support.

"Most of my still life paintings are set up in my studio with light from a window on my right. Although the subject matter is what inspires me, the backgrounds and shadows are some of the most important parts of the painting as they enhance and compliment the subject matter itself.  On the technical side, I nearly always start with the background and shadows, move on to the subject and then dance between the two, building up their relationship until I think it works and they are 'speaking to each other'." - Lillias August RI

Helen Davison Pears Watercolour & gouache, 38 x 28 cm (40 x 50 cm framed) £1,200

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Helen Davison’s Pears offers us four views of pears, some in pairs, some alone. They seem to work as a sort of storyboard – the new pear brought home from the Grocers, nestled in a paper bag, introduced to the others in the fruit bowl until she is eaten! But even then she seems to know how to show off her figure, using the brown paper bag like a feather boa.

Wayne Ford Autumn Glory Watercolour, 25 x 38 cm (47 x 60 cm framed) £1,400

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Wayne Ford’s Autumn Glory certainly speaks of abundance and fruitfulness. The bowl you took to gather pears from the tree wasn’t big enough, you wrapped some more in a cloth, but still you couldn’t carry all the tree had to offer. You put these down just inside the door as you grabbed a large basket to head back out.

Shirley Trevena RI Fruit & Flowers on a Cream Cloth Watercolour & graphite pencil, 41 x 41 cm (59 x 58 cm framed) £1,200

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Shirley Trevena RI has included pears in three of her Still Lifes. With jugs and vases of flowers, these pears, on their elevated fruit stands, seem to sing of abundance and harvest time pleasures.  

Shirley Trevena RI Kitchen Still Life Watercolour & graphite pencil, 38 x 35 cm (57 x 52 cm framed) £1,200

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Shirley Trevena RI Blue China & Green Apples Watercolour & graphite pencil, 30 x 36 cm (48 x 50 cm framed) £450

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Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition runs 20 to 29 May

Discover the whole exhibition now