Alan Wheatley Art

William Scott Artist Biography  British, 1913-1989

Throughout the career, the themes of still-life, landscape and the female nude recur in Scott’s work. Although there are phases where his paintings could be called non-objective, more often they explore the space between abstraction and figuration.

William Scott was born in Scotland and at the age of 11 his family moved to Enniskillen in Northern Ireland where he soon began art classes with a local teacher, Kathleen Bridle. In 1928 William Scott enrolled at the Belfast School of Art, moving to London three years later to take up a place at the Royal Academy Schools, initially in the sculpture department, and later moving to painting.
William Scott married fellow student Mary Lucas in May 1937 and soon after they travelled to Italy and France, establishing an art school in Pont-Aven with the painter Geoffrey Nelson.

In 1938, Scott exhibited at the Paris Salon d'Automne, and was elected Sociétaire that same year. Days before the outbreak of the World War II, the Scotts left France, moving firstly to Dublin and then to London before eventually settling in Somerset. Scott joined the Army in July 1942, serving firstly with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and then as a lithographic draughtsman with the Royal Engineers. Although not demobilized until January 1946, he continued to paint and to exhibit during the War both in group and solo shows.

On leaving the Army, William Scott took up the position of Senior Painting Master at the Bath Academy of Art, at Corsham Court, Wiltshire. During the decade in which he taught at Corsham, William Scott made frequent trips to Cornwall and became good friends with many of the St Ives Group of artists. William Scott also continued to dedicate much of his time to his own painting, which, at that date, was concerned mainly with the theme of still-life. A number of these works were shown at two one-man exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in London, the first in 1948 and the second in 1951. 1951 was also the year of the Festival of Britain: William Scott was one of the sixty artists invited by the Arts Council to exhibit as part of the celebrations. Around this time, William Scott’s work moved closer to non-figuration and his first one-man show at the Hanover Gallery in London, which opened in June 1953, included a number of, loosely, abstract paintings. That same year, an extended visit to North America resulted in friendships with New York based artists including Rothko and de Kooning. One of the first British artists to be aware of Abstract Expressionism, the work he saw in America made William Scott aware of how much his painting was, and would continue to be, tied to a European artistic tradition.

By 1956, William Scott’s success as an artist, both nationally and internationally, allowed him to give up full-time teaching, although he would remain interested in, and involved with, art school education for the rest of his life. In 1958 he represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale, one of many occasions on which his work was chosen by the British Council to be exhibited abroad. At the 1961 São Paulo Biennal, William Scott won the Sanbra (International Critics) Purchase Prize. The 1960s saw retrospective exhibitions in Zurich, Hannover, Berne and Belfast. There were also major shows in London, Tokyo, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Oslo and Rotterdam. In 1963 William Scott was invited to take up the offer a 12-month residency in Berlin by the Ford Foundation.

In 1972, the Tate Gallery mounted a major retrospective which included more than 125 paintings dating from 1938 onwards. The following year Scott toured India, Australia and Mexico as a British Council lecturer. William Scott received honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Art in London, Queen's University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin. In 1984 William Scott was elected a Royal Academician, shortly after the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The 1985 film, Every Picture Tells A Story - about the artist's early life - was made by his son, James Scott, for Channel 4 Television. A 1986 exhibition at the Ulster Museum in Belfast toured to both Dublin and Edinburgh.

 

Public collections include:
Australia
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Western Australia Art Gallery, Perth

Austria
Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna

Canada
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Beaverbrook Art Gallery, New Brunswick

France
Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris

Germany
Kunsthalle, Hamburg Neue Nationalgalerie - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Ireland
Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin Trinity College, Dublin

Italy
Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Genoa
Galleria Nationale d’Arte Moderna, Rome
Galleria Civica di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin

United Kingdom
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
Arts Council of Great Britain, London
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Belfast Education and Library Board, Northern Ireland
Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery
Bishop Otter College, Chichester
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Bristol's City Art Gallery
British Council, London
British Museum, London
Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull
Fermanagh County Museum, Enniskillen
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Hatton Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Imperial War Museum, London
Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge
Leeds City Art Gallery
Leicestershire County Council
McManus Galleries and Museum, Dundee
National Museum Liverpool (The Walker)
National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter
Royal College of Art, London
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Sheffield City Art Galleries Southampton
City Art Gallery
Tate Gallery, London
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Wakefield City Art Gallery
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
Ulster Museum, Belfast

United States of America
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Texas
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona
Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Rhode Island
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Brooklyn Museum, New York
The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio
University of Buffalo, Anderson Gallery, NY
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Michigan

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