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William Scott - Still life

William Scott

Still life

Oil on canvas: 10(h) x 12(w) in / 25.4(h) x 30.5(w) cm
Signed upper right: W SCOTT

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Greenock 1913 - 1989 Somerset

Ref: CB 122


Still life


Signed upper right: W SCOTT

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

Frame size: 15 x 17 in / 38.1 x 43.2 cm


Painted circa 1958




Private collection, USA, circa 1960, then by descent

Richard Green, London, 2007;

private collection, UK, 2007

Richard Green, London, 2012;

private collection, USA



Sarah Whitfield (ed.), William Scott: Catalogue raisonné of oil paintings, Vol.2 1952-1959, Thames & Hudson in association with William Scott Foundation, London, 2013, no.368, illus. in colour p.244



During the last ten years I have aimed at expressing my ideas in as direct and simple a manner as possible taking for my subjects things seen, which are common and ordinary, believing that the poetry of the subject will be in the painting of it’ William Scott[1]


Choosing objects of purely formal significance, William Scott’s representation of still life subjects concentrated on a contrast between the primitive austerity of the objects depicted and the sensuous qualities of paint and colour. Still life, painted circa 1958, vividly demonstrates this contrast, displaying a few simple objects enlivened by a rich paint surface, thick with impasto. Suggesting a gradual development towards a second period of abstraction, Ronald Alley discusses Scott’s still lifes from 1957-58, describing the increased simplification of form and the importance of texture: ‘Though still life remained the theme for most of his paintings, the pots and pans began to lose their identity and to turn into irregular oblong or lozenge shapes…The quality of the picture surface was now extremely important, the textural contrasts, the thin paint and the thick paint and the scratched lines. But although Scott treated oil paint as a delectable substance, he was anxious to avoid a too perfect finish, a facile smartness. Hence his careful-careless way of applying the paint, his practice of allowing corrections to show through, and his liking for what he calls ‘the beauty of the thing done badly.’[2]


Still life is thought to be one of a group of four small paintings that Scott painted in Venice in the summer of 1958 when he was lent a studio in the Accademia during the Biennale, where he was representing Britain. Norbert Lynton describes this series: ‘The new paintings are still lifes consisting of just a few bowls and pans on a tabletop, with or without the horizon line that marks the far edge of the table, but with the table itself brought right forward… sometimes grouped more formally as in Morandi’s characteristic paintings of the 1950s. The table becomes a stage, the objects become performers, dramatis personae, ready to regroup and perform again the next day. There is a quiet concentration about these paintings that distinguishes them from the much larger canvases then glowing and flowing from the walls of the British Pavilion, even though WS’s means are essentially the same. It may be that he was reconsidering his essential purposes.’[3]




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 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] Cited in Ronald Alley, William Scott, Methuen, London, 1963.

[2] Ronald Alley, ibid.

[3] Norbert Lynton, William Scott, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004, p.207.

Other Works By
William Scott:

William Scott - Still life green blue theme 'H C ' 5


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