William Scott

Fish still life (grey)

Oil on canvas: 25(h) x 30(w) in /

63.5(h) x 76.2(w) cm

Signed on the reverse: W Scott

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BV 105



Greenock 1913 – 1989 Somerset


Fish still life (grey)


Signed on the reverse: W Scott

Oil on canvas: 25 x 30 in / 63.5 x 76.2 cm

Frame size: 32 x 37 in / 81.3 x 94 cm


Painted in 1983



Gimpel Fils, London (on loan from the artist), April 1983

Beaux Arts, Bath, July 1986

Geoffrey Harley (1937-2016), Corsham, Wiltshire, acquired from the above 4th December 1986 (Gimpel Fils record the sale to Beaux Arts taking place on 13th February 1987)



Sarah Whitfield (ed), William Scott Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, vol. 4, 1969-1989, Thames and Hudson, London, 2013, no. A165, p.377, illus.


‘I find beauty in plainness, in a conception which is precise, a simple idea which to the observer must inevitably shock and leave a concrete image on the mind.’ William Scott, 1947


Though spoken early in his career, Scott’s statement equally illuminates his beautiful late still lifes, whose clarity of form and composition had reached their apotheosis. Norbert Lynton suggests Scott returned to painting fish following his trip to Osaka, Japan, ‘…not the starved mackerel Guy Burn had found among his earliest still lives, but a lively, fresh and pushy creature.’ Writing of the comparable, Single fish with shadow, 1983, Lynton describes ‘…a subtle arrangement of greys and whites. The fish is curiously alive. WS’s sons confirm that he liked catching fish as well as eating them, notably mackerel and sardines. On camping holidays in Cornwall and Brittany they recall him frying the fish, with the heads left on in the French manner.’[1] Scott exhibited larger, more complex fish compositions, such as Blue fish at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1981 and Fish no.1 the following year (all private collection), before gifting a smaller, centralised single Fish to the Royal Academy of Arts Trust.


Fish still life blue, 1982/3, Maclaurin Art Gallery at Rozelle House, South Ayrshire County Council





Still life, fish, 1946                                   Kippers on a blue plate, c.1948                 Mackerel, 1948

Oil on canvas: 45.9 x 61 cm                Oil on canvas: 23 x 33.3 cm                Oil on canvas: 52.2 x 75.9 cm            

County Hall, Leicestershire                 The Fitzwilliam Museum,                    Scottish National Gallery

County Council                                     Cambridge                                             of Modern Art




Still Life with fish, mushrooms, knife and lemons, c.1949                          Mackerel on a plate, 1951-2

Oil on canvas: 51 x 61 cm                                                                   Oil on canvas: 55.9 x 76.2 cm

Bristol ‘s City Museum and Art Gallery                                              Tate





Greenock 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 Attnagelvin 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] Norbert Lynton, William Scott, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004, p.336.


Post War BritishWilliam Scott