William  Scott  

BLUE STILL LIFE, 1969-1970

The internationally acclaimed landscape, still-life and abstract painter William Scott was born in 1913 in Greenock, Scotland. His family moved to Fermanagh when he was 11. His artistic study began at night classes at the Technical School with the artist Kathleen Bridle, before he attended the Belfast College of Art in 1928. He subsequently won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools in London in 1931, where he would share rooms with painters Alfred James, Mervyn Levy and poet Dylan Thomas. He won a silver medal for sculpture in 1933 and the Leverhulme Travelling Scholarship for fine art painting in 1935.

He married fellow artist Mary Lucas in 1937, with whom he lived in France and Italy for the next 2 years, founding a landscape painting art school in Pont-Aven in Brittany. He and his wife would return to Britain at the outbreak of WWII, after a 6 month sojourn in Dublin, where his first son was born. He spent the early years of the war working at an art school in Bath, before settling in Hallatrow, High Littleton, where his second son was born in 1941. Enlisting in the army, Scott would eventually become attached to the Royal Engineers, serving until 1946, where he deployed his skills of lithography while working on map-making detail. He returned to Pont-Aven in 1946, where he failed to recover the works he had left behind at the outbreak of the war. He was made senior lecturer of painting at the Bath Academy of Art the same year, a position he would hold until 1956.

Whereas his artistic focus had been mainly on still-life painting in the 1930s and 40s, Scott experimented with a more abstract style in the proceeding decade, a change which would eventually see him develop the style and technique to paint, what are considered by most, his masterworks in the 1960s and 70s. He exhibited his paintings throughout America, where he met artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, before returning to still-life again towards the end of his career. Scott’s works in oil have sold, at their height, in the region of €1 million, putting Scott in the exalted and select company of other Irish or Irish-born artists, such as Francis Bacon and Jack Butler Yeats, to have works sold at this level.

Scott died in 1989, having received honours such as membership of the Royal Academy, an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art, as well as a CBE. He is considered to be one of the foremost contributors to Irish art in the 20th Century. A retrospective of his work took place in 1972 at the London Tate and in 1986 at the Ulster Museum, which subsequently toured Dublin and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. In 2013 Scott was celebrated with a retrospective exhibition of his career on the centenary of his birth at the Tate St Ives, which toured the Ulster Museum, Belfast later that year.

Artist's Gallery