• William Scott


    • Male

    About the artist

    Was a British artist known for still life and abstract painting
    1913: Born in Greenock, Scotland, to Scots-Irish parents
    1924: His family moved with his mother, Agnes to Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

    William Scott Biography

    1913   Born Greenock, Scotland, son of an Irish father and Scottish mother

    1924   Family returned to father’s home town in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Regarding his childhood he would later say : ‘I was brought up in a grey world, an austere world: the garden I knew was a cemetery and we had no fine furniture.’

    1928   Entered Belfast College of Art.

    1931   Moved to London, entered the Royal Academy Schools, beginning in sculpture School.

    1933   Awarded silver medal for sculpture.

    1934 - 1935   Transferred to Painting School.
    Awarded Leverhulme Travelling Scholarship.

    1936   Worked for six months near Penzance, Cornwall. On this experience he wrote in 1972: ‘I think the first big break came when I went to Cornwall in 1936...I started to think of a primitive realism as something to be aimed for.’

    1937   Married Mary Lucas a fellow student at the RA Schools.

    1937 - 1938   Lived in Italy for six months, visiting Florence, Venice and Rome.

    1938   Moved to Pont Aven, Brittany.
    Met Geoffrey Nelson, with whom the Scotts organised the Pont Aven School of Painting.
    There Scott decided he was not a landscapist, feeling mainly attracted by man-made things he began focusing on still life, developing a deep affinity for the tradition of Chardin and Braque.
    Elected Societaire du Salon d’Automne, Paris.
    Moved to Saint Tropez and Cagnes-sur-Mer , South of France.

    1939   Returned to Pont Aven to teach and paint.
    Met Mauurice Denis and Emile Bernard.
    On The outbreak of war he left France and returned to Britain.
    Many paintings were lost in France.
    Settled in Dublin

    1940   Birth of his son Robert.
    Returned to London.

    1941   Moved to Hallatrow, Somerset and taught part time at the Bath Academy of Art.
    Birth of his son James.

    1942   Volunteered for the Army and served with the Royal Engineers for nearly four years.
    No painting, except for some watercolour landscapes distinguished by the elimination of details and by the clear-cut construction.
    Learnt the technique of lithography while in the map making section of the engineers.
    First one-man exhibition at the Leger Gallery, Bond Street. In his review Clive Bell commented that Scott possessed ‘intelligence, a sure sense of colour, and a gift, a truly remarkable gift of placing.’

    1949   Elected a member of the London Group.

    1951   Scott was one of the artists invited by the Arts Council to paint a large picture for the Festival of Britain; he made ‘Still Life 1951’ which represents his first attempt at a large scale painting.

    1952   Took a studio and apartment in Chelsea, London, but continued to live part of the year at Hallatrow, with summers often spent in Cornwall.
    As a painter he was now concentrating on the problem of eliminating recognisable imagery by reducing the forms to very simple, flat , almost geometrical elements. He wrote later: ‘I longed for a freedom from the object.’

    1953   First visit to North America as guest instructor at the summer school of the University of Alberta’s Banff School of Fine Arts.
    Returned to England via New York where he met Pollock, Kline, de Kooning, Brooks and other American painters.
    Scott was struck by the size and directness of the new American painting, but returned to Europe convinced that European painters belonged to a different tradition and should not imitate the Americans. This conviction led him to a more representational style of painting.
    Scott was one of the five painters selected by the British Council to show recent work at the Sao Paulo Bienal.

    1954   First exhibition in New York, at the Martha Jackson Gallery.
    Visited the Lascaux caves in France, he wrote later: ‘The experience of these terrific drawings helped me to rethink what art was about. It renewed my earlier interest in primitivism.’

    1946 - 1956   Left the army and returned to Somerset.
    Concentrated on still life arrangements of pots, saucepans, eggs and bottles on a bare kitchen table. What really concerned him was the relationship of a few simple shapes and their arrangement and spacing against the plastic emptiness of the backgrounds. The paint was applied thinly, the colours were clear and tonally precise, the effect gleaming and immaculate, creating a kind of contrast between the austerity of the subject and the richness of the qualities of paint and colour.
    Appointed senior Painting Master at the Bath Academy of Art (now at Corsham Court), famous then for its avant-garde atmosphere.

    1956 - 1957   Worked in studio at Hallatrow making many drawings in charcoal and pencil. Scott stated: ‘I felt during these years that much abstract art had reached a point of mere pattern -making, and without a desire to illustrate I wanted a picture to be about something.’

    1959   Awarded first prize in the British painting section at the second John Moores Liverpool Exhibition.

    1961   Completed a mural for Altnagelvin Hospital Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The work measured 9 x 45 feet and, as a result of its big dimensions, had the effect of accelerating Scott’s development of a completely non-figurative style; from this point on his pictures tended to be larger, made of simpler forms (usually irregular variants of the square and the circle) and large expanses of colour, whereas their shapes were often cut off by the edges of the composition as to suggest the picture as a section of a larger field.
    Retrospective exhibition at the XXIX Venice Biennale.
    Exhibited at the VI Sao Paulo Bienal; awarded Sanbra (International Critics) Purchase Prize.
    Scott’s work is subsequently shown in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

    1963   Invited by the Ford Foundation to be an artist in residence near Bath.

    1966   Created CBE.

    1969   Began a partial return to still life scenes.

    1972   Retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London.

    1973   Visited Australia, Mexico and India as visiting lecturer for the British Council.

    1975   Honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Art.

    1976   Honorary Doctor of Literature, Queen’s University, Belfast.
    Visited Japan where he exhibited at the Kasahara Gallery.

    1977   Honorary Doctor of Literature, Trinity College, Dublin.

    1984   Elected to the Royal Academy

    1985   Diagnosed as having Alzheimer.
    Featured in the Channel 4 film ‘Every Picture Tells a Story.’
    Awarded the Korn Ferry prize at the Royal Academy Exhibition.

    1986   Retrospective exhibition at the Ulster Museum, Belfast and touring.

    1989   Died on 28th December.

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