Artwork of the Month - April 2015

Allegory for April 12, 1961

Allegory for April 12
Oil on canvas
172.8 x 160 cm / 68 x 63 in
Private collection

The month of April appears in the title of nine paintings by William Scott; apart from a brief nod to May (May 1st, 1961) it is the only month to be referenced by Scott in this manner. (Why, or indeed if, April bore some special significance for Scott is not known.) In 1960, a series of five works, all oil on paper, were entitled according – presumably – to their date of execution; Composition, April 12, Composition, April 13, etc. The following year, the titles of three oil paintings mark, in all likelihood, the date on which they were completed; April 2nd, April 3rd and April 4th.

The significance of the date in the title of the final ‘April’ painting – Allegory for April 12 – is somewhat different. Here, one must assume that the date no longer relates to the historical origins of the artwork itself but rather to a recent historical event; on 12 April 1961, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, orbiting once around the Earth during a flight lasting 108 minutes. Certainly, the title invites the viewer to read what is an ostensibly abstract painting within this context, to interpret the blue outline of the rounded form – the presence of which is intensified by its vividness (the paint was squeezed directly from a tube of French Ultramarine) – as an allusion to the groundbreaking journey around the Earth made by Gagarin, who afterwards said, ‘The Earth is blue … How wonderful. It is amazing.’