16 February 2015
[Breton Landscape], 1938 or 1939 has been donated to the McLean Museum and Art Gallery by the William Scott Foundation. The painting belongs to a series of works painted in either 1938 or 1939 when Scott was living in Brittany. Although the landscape is of France, the plain, white houses bring to mind the Celtic crofter’s cottages with which Scott was familiar from his childhood days in Scotland and Ireland. The stark division and flattening out of the picture plane, however, together with the simple forms reveal Scott’s awareness of the work of contemporary artists Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson. Scott brought the painting back with him from France, and it remained with the artist until his death in 1989. In 2013 it was included in the major touring exhibition held at Tate St Ives, the Hepworth Wakefield and the Ulster Museum, Belfast, to mark the centenary of Scott’s birth. Mounted in collaboration with the William Scott Foundation, this exhibition brought together works from major collections across the UK and Ireland, as well as important loans from public and private collections.
From the time his work was first exhibited, at the 1938 Salon d’Automne in Paris, up until the 1980s, artist William Scott CBE RA (1913 – 1989) was a key figure in European and American art and is considered one of the most influential British painters of the 20th century. He is represented in many collections in the UK and abroad including the Tate collection, the Ulster Museum, the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum. [Breton Landscape] will be a welcome addition to the McLean Museum and Art Gallery’s collection, which until now had only a Scott print donated by the Scottish Arts Council.
Over the course of his career, Scott exhibited widely; in London, America, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Canada and Australia, as well as Belfast and Dublin. He never forgot his links with Scotland, however. In 1948, he submitted work to the Royal Scottish Academy annual exhibition, the first of several occasions on which he exhibited in Scotland. In the 1960s, the Inner Hebridean islands were the source of inspiration for a group of prints which he produced in partnership with the Curwen Studios. The first of these was called Arran, after the island of which Scott was especially fond. Around the same time, he began working with Alastair Morton, the director of the Edinburgh Weavers, translating his designs into textiles, some of which also had their roots in the landscape of Scotland, for example Skara Brae and Skaill. Today in Scotland, Scott’s pictures continue to be worked into tapestries, by the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh.
The artist’s sons, James and Robert, directors of the William Scott Foundation in London, realise the importance of their family’s link to Greenock, and said:
“We have strong Celtic ties; our grandmother was born in Glasgow and our grandfather in Northern Ireland. Our father, who would have been 102 on 15 February 2015, worked his way from Greenock to exhibit internationally, with major works in important museums. We feel that it is only right that the McLean Museum and Art Gallery should have a work by our father in its collection as a tribute to the town where he was born.”
Inverclyde Council’s Education and Communities Vice-Convenor Martin Brennan said:
“We are delighted to accept this wonderful work by internationally renowned, Greenock born, artist William Scott for the McLean Museum’s collection. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be able to add Breton Landscape, 1938 or 1939 to Inverclyde’s collection, enabling the local museum to bring the artist’s work to a new audience who can enjoy it in the town of his birth.”
You can listen to the handover presentation with Robert Scott and Councillor Martin Brennan of Inverclyde Council here.