William Scott

Poem for a jug, no. 6

Oil on canvas: 10(h) x 12(w) in /

25.4(h) x 30.5(w) cm

Signed and dated on the reverse: W SCOTT 79-80

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BL 127



 Greenock, Scotland 1913 – 1989 Somerset


Poem for a jug, no.6


Signed and dated on the reverse: W SCOTT 79-80

Oil on canvas: 10 x 12 in / 25.4 x 30.5 cm

Frame size: 15 ⅜ x 17 ⅜ in / 39.1 x 44.1cm



Mary Scott

Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London

Stanley J Seeger



London, Gimpel Fils, Poem for a Jug, 20th May – 21st June 1980, no. 6

London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, William Scott, 12th September – 13th October 1990, no. 30



Norbert Lynton, William Scott, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004, pp. 336–38

Sarah Whitfield (ed.), William Scott Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, Vol. 4, 1969–1989, Thames & Hudson in association with the William Scott Foundation, London, 2013, p. 262, no. 877, illustrated in colour



Inspired by and developing from the group of small jug paintings he exhibited at the Gallery Moos, Toronto, the previous year, Scott began a numbered series of twenty-six oil paintings entitled Poem for a Jug in 1979, which were exhibited together at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in May–June 1980. Though based on a single theme the works vary in size from 10 × 12

inches, as in the present work and Poem for a Jug No. 4 at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, to the slightly larger Poem for a Jug No. 11 in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, up to 32 × 36

inches. The colour schemes and objects depicted also diverge, several including Poem for a Jug No. 1, not actually representing a jug. The outline of the main object in the present work

resembles that of the first in the series, which Sarah Whitfield describes as the ‘familiar saucepan with an upturned lid, a motif first explored in 1955’.[1] Here only the silhouette and opening is

drawn in thin brown paint, negatively articulated on bare canvas while the rest of the surface is painted white. The densest use of paint is reserved for the white oval, egg-like objects on the right, whose visible brushstrokes curve across their contours suggesting three-dimensional form projecting from their slightly shaded boundaries. The ghosts of previous forms and original placement hover quietly beneath the surface.


In a letter dated 26th April 1980, Scott wrote to Jean-Yves Mock explaining that the series title was inspired by the poet John Keats: ‘My immediate problem for the catalogue when we discussed it last week was how to title so many works with the same subject. While at Coleford I arrived at the conclusion that one title could cover them all and inspired by Keats I decided

to call it “Poem for a Jug” using “Poem” rather than “Ode” and “Jug” rather than “Urn”’.[2] The final lines of Keats poem of 1819, Ode on a Grecian Urn, as well as the author’s homage to a single

object, seem particularly apt to Scott’s series: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know’.




William Scott, Poem for a Jug No. 4, 1979/1980

Oil on canvas:  24.7 x 30.5 cm

Jerwood Gallery, Hastings




Greenock, Scotland 1913 – 1989 Somerset


Born in Greenock, Scotland on the 15th February 1913 to an Irish father and Scottish mother, William Scott grew up in Enniskillen, a small town in Northern Ireland.  He studied at Belfast College of Art from 1928-31 and at the Royal Academy Schools in London from 1931-35, first in the sculpture school then from 1934 in painting.  During his education at the Royal Academy, Scott won a silver medal for sculpture, became a Landseer scholar in painting and on leaving the schools was awarded a Leverhulme Scholarship.  In 1936 Scott worked for six months in Mousehole, Cornwall.  The following year he married a fellow student at the Royal Academy, Mary Lucas.  For the next two years William and Mary Scott travelled and lived abroad, mainly in France, Venice and Rome.  William, Mary and Geoffrey Nelson ran an art school at Pont-Aven in Brittany in the summer months of 1938 and 1939, living for the rest of the year in the south at St. Tropez and Cagnes–sur-mer.  In 1938 he was elected Sociétaire du Salon d’Automne, Paris.  He left France in the autumn of 1939, spending a few months in Dublin before returning to London.  In January 1941 he took a cottage at Hallatrow, near Bristol, where he ran a market garden and taught part-time at Bath Academy. 


In 1942 Scott was given his first one-man exhibition at the Leger Galley, London.  The same year he volunteered for the army and served nearly four years from 1942-6 in the Royal Engineers, during which time his painting practically ceased.  While in the map making section, Scott learnt the technique of lithography.  In 1945 he illustrated the Soldier’s Verse, chosen by Patric Dickenson with original lithographs by W Scott.


In 1946 Scott was appointed Senior Painting Master at Bath Academy, Corsham.  He was elected a member of the London Group in 1949 and in 1953, after teaching at a summer school in Canada, Scott visited New York, where he met Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Frans Kline.  In 1958 a retrospective exhibition of Scott’s work was exhibited at the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale, and he was commissioned to create a large mural for Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry.  In 1959 he was awarded first prize in the painters section at John Moores Liverpool Exhibition. William Scott died on the 28th December 1989.


[1] Sarah Whitfield (ed.), William Scott Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, op. cit., p. 258.

[2] The artist cited in Sarah Whitfield (ed.), William Scott Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, ibid., p. 258.


Post War BritishWilliam Scott