William Scott
Irish Still-Life Painter: Biography, Minimalist Paintings.


William Scott RA (1913-1989)

The internationally acclaimed minimalist still-life artist, landscape and abstract painter William Scott was born in Scotland, to Scottish and Irish parents but moved to Eniskillen, County Fermanagh, when he was 11. He was lucky enough to begin early study with the artist Kathleen Bridle, before attending the Belfast College of Art after which he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools in London. There he studied sculpture (1931-1933), winning a silver medal in his third year, and then fine art painting (1934-1935) for which he won the Leverhulme Travelling Scholarship. It was Cezanne's influence which caused him to take up still-life painting. In 1936, he exhibited his "Adoration of the Shepherds" at the Royal Academy (RA). In 1937, he married Mary Lucas, a fellow painter and sculptor at the RA.

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William Scott and his wife then went abroad, visiting Venice, Florence and Rome, after which they spent the winters in the South of France and the summers in Pont-Aven in Brittany. With Geoffrey Nelson, they established the Pont-Aven School of landscape painting. During this time Scott exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, and in 1939, he was elected Societaire du Salon d'Automne. When war broke out, the Scotts returned to England via Dublin, settling in Somerset. He taught temporarily at Bath Academy of Art before joining the Royal Engineers. He exhibited watercolours and in 1945 showed at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. After the war, Scott he was appointed senior painting lecturer at the Bath Academy of Art, returning to Pont-Aven in the summer. He was a frequent visitor to St Ives in Cornwall and, from 1954, exhibited his paintings in New York, making contact with American Expressionists. Scott's art of the 1930s and 1940s was mainly still life, but in the 1950s he moved into abstract painting, and slowly developed his style and technique so as to produce his masterpieces of the 1960s and 1970s.


William Scott's artworks were shown at a huge number of solo and group shows in Brazil, America, Canada, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Japan, during his career. He had one-man shows at almost all major UK and Irish art galleries. He excelled in drawing, oil painting, watercolours, gouache, murals, as well as printmaking, including lithography, and screen printing, while his subjects varied from still-life to landscapes, figure painting and nudes. He had a retrospective at the London Tate in 1972 and in 1986 at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, touring to the Guinness Hopstore, Dublin, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

During his spectacular career as an artist, Scott won numerous prestigious awards including membership of the Royal Academy, Honorary Doctor Royal College of Art, and a CBE. He died in 1989 at Coleford near Bath. William Scott's work is included in most major collections in Europe and America and he is regarded as one of the foremost contributors to visual art in Ireland, during the twentieth century.

In June 2008, his outstanding still-life painting "Bowl, Eggs and Lemons" sold for £1,071,650 at Christie's in London, propelling Scott into the million pound category, occupied by such Irish artists as Francis Bacon (1909-92), Jack Butler Yeats (1971-1957), William Orpen (1878-1931), John Lavery (1856-1941) and Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012).For details of how his prices compare with other painters from Ireland, see: Most Expensive Irish Art.

More Information About Visual Arts in Ireland

• For details of other painters and sculptors from Ulster, see: Irish Artists: Biographies.
• For more about modern artists from Northern Ireland like William Scott, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For more about still-life painting, see: Homepage.

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