William Scott

Reclining Nude (Red Nude)


Not on display

William Scott 1913–1989
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 914 × 1524 mm
frame: 964 × 1571 × 62 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

Scott worked from the figure at various times in his life and painted a number of nudes between 1954 and 1957. The earlier of these, with their large flattened bodies and tapering spiky limbs, have a primitive and fierce quality and have been compared with ancient or tribal art. This painting is from a slightly later group of works which clearly demonstrate Scott's great admiration for the paintings of Bonnard. A copy of Bonnard's 'The Bath' from the Tate's collection hung in Scott's home. The contours of 'Reclining Nude' also refer to landscape. The combination of figure and landscape had been an earlier preoccupation and subject of Scott's.

Gallery label, September 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Technique and condition

The painting is in oil on canvas, and is unvarnished. A white commercially prepared lead white ground is present. The oil paint is lean and matte, with smooth brushstrokes in the cadmium red background. The painting is thinly painted and there is little to no impasto. The handling of the orange paint used for the figure is looser with more visible brush strokes. Gaps between strokes of orange paint reveal a buff coloured initial setting out of the central figure, which is painted using two shades of orange; a darker orange comprised of cadmium orange mixed with cadmium red and a lighter orange which is a mixture of cadmium orange, cadmium red and lead white.

The elongated limbs and the head that is cut off by the edge of the picture plane are characteristic of Scott’s painted nudes. The condition of the painting is excellent, however the cadmium orange paint of the central figure is water sensitive. Water sensitivity is a phenomenon commonly encountered in unvarnished twentieth century oil paintings and is an area of ongoing research (see the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project). The water sensitive cadmium orange paint contains magnesium carbonate, which suggests the use of Winsor & Newton paints, although the simultaneous use of paints by other brands is not ruled out. Calcium carbonate and barium sulphate extenders, along with castor wax (a common tube paint additive) were found in the non-water sensitive cadmium red paint. The painting is currently unframed and unglazed.

Further reading
Alan Bowness, William Scott: paintings, drawings, and gouaches 1938-71, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1972.
Norbert Lynton and John Russel, William Scott, London, 2004.

Judith Lee
February 2017

Research on this work was carried out as part of an AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at Tate 2013–2016.

Catalogue entry

William Scott 1913-1989

T00811 Reclining Nude (red nude) 1956

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 36 x 60 (91.5 x 152.5).
Purchased from Miss Erica Brausen through the Hanover Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1965.
Coll: Purchased by Miss Brausen from the artist through the Hanover Gallery 1956.
Exh: Hanover Gallery, September-October 1956 (17) as ‘Red Nude’; Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, June-July 1960 (presumably as 24, ‘Nude’ 1957) and tour to Freiburg, Dortmund and Munich, 1960–61.
Lit: Alan Bowness, William Scott: Paintings, 1964, pp. 9–10, 35 repr. upside down pl. 61 in colour.

One of a series of reclining or standing nudes painted in 1956–7. It has been reproduced the other way up but the artist says that it was painted in the way it is now shown (with the head on the right). Moreover this presentation gives the image a strong suggestion of landscape - an ambiguous fusion of figure and landscape forms as in various other pictures of the period.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1965–1966, London 1967.


You might like

In the shop