Artist biography

Painter of Irish and Scottish descent. He completed his studies at Belfast College of Art and from 1931 to 1935 at the Royal Academy Schools in London.

While serving in the army from 1942 to 1946 he made only a few watercolours of soldiers and the local landscape. He returned to painting in earnest in 1946, concentrating on still-lifes of pots and saucepans, eggs, fishes and bottles on a bare kitchen table. He chose these objects simply because they provided contrasting shapes that he could arrange against simple backgrounds, often to elegant effect. By 1951 the forms had begun to take on a life of their own, sometimes as metaphors of erotic encounters between male and female. Some of his works of 1952–4 became completely abstract.

This phase of Scott's work came to an end partly as a result of a visit in 1953 to the USA, where he met Pollock, Rothko and Kline. He felt that he belonged to the European tradition of Chardin, Cézanne and Bonnard, and this led to a gradual return to a more representational style. Gradually, however, he moved again towards abstraction.

In the late 1960s he reintroduced objects such as frying pans and saucepans juxtaposed with purely abstract forms; the picture space was kept deliberately flat and the forms carefully spaced in floating rows. In both paintings and prints he sometimes produced variations of almost identical arrangements of forms in completely different colours, continuing to use still-life subjects as the starting-point for otherwise self-sufficient formal relationships.

Bibliography
A. Bowness, M. Ragon and W. Schmalenbach: William Scott: Paintings (London, 1964)
William Scott: Paintings, Drawings and Gouaches, 1938–71 (exh. cat. by A. Bowness, London, Tate, 1972)
William Scott (exh. cat. by R. Alley and T. P. Flanagan, Belfast, Ulster Mus., 1986)

RONALD ALLEY

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