Artwork of the Month - July 2015

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Morning in Mykonos, 1960-61

Morning in Mykonos
1960–61
Oil on canvas
160.4 x 173 cm / 63 x 68 in
British Council Collection, London

School holidays, soaring temperatures (albeit with the occasional downpour!), strawberries and cream – it is July! It is a time when many escape the rat-race for a couple of weeks, often taking a well deserved break in foreign climes. Such thoughts bring to mind Scott’s beautiful painting of the early 1960s Morning in Mykonos (even with Greece’s current woes, it is hard to imagine that the Greek islands will ever lose their appeal as a holiday destination). The work was first exhibited at Scott’s one-man show at the Hanover Gallery in May–June 1961, where it was promptly purchased by the British Council. As with many other paintings of the period there is a great variety of texture, layering of paint and incising around the forms. The main areas of greyish paint are grainy with plenty of evidence of impasto (there may be some sand mixed paint). Writing in 2004, Norbert Lynton praised the work’s ‘broad harmoniousness kept lively by local surprises and imperfections’ going on to remark that, ‘what is first seen as self-evident neatness is suavely countered by a sort of un-finality in all the shapes’ edges and lines and by rhythmical disposition instead of regularity.’

Despite the apparent specificity of the title, there is nothing to suggest that Scott had the particular island of Mykonos in mind when executing the work. Later, in the illustrated lecture he recorded for the British Council in 1972, Scott explained that many of his titles from the late fifties and early sixties were related: ‘Drawing led me to a greater interest in texture. Interest in texture in drawing now led me to a greater interest in texture in painting as a quality in itself. I was in a process of looking beyond European art to more ancient cultures: Egypt and Greece. I visited the British Museum frequently and I think that I owe a change in direction to some strange reaction I had in America to the absence of history in American painting. My titles at this time – Morning in Mykonos, Egyptian Memory, Ocean, Orange Table Top – these titles express the mood I was in at that time.’

According to the catalogue of the 1962 Arts Council exhibition, Drawing Towards Painting, five drawings associated with this painting were included, all of which are said to have been done at the same time as the painting. These have not been traced. Hopefully, one day, they might be.