William Scott (WS) was born in Greenock, Scotland, on 15 February, the oldest son of an Irish father, William, and a Scottish mother, Agnes.
The family returned to WS's father’s home town, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Through his father’s mediation, WS was taken on as pupil by Kathleen Bridle, a recent prize-winner at London’s Royal College of Art. She showed him modern French art in reproductions and encouraged him to draw and make watercolours. She also introduced him to modern art theory (Roger Fry, Clive Bell), and to life drawing and to painting in oils.
WS's father died attempting to save others’ lives in a fire in Enniskillen.
A grant from the local authority enabled WS to study at Belfast College of Art, Northern Ireland, until 1931.
WS gained a place in the sculpture department of the Royal Academy Schools, London, and in September he moved to London.
Repeated visits to the exhibition of French Art at the Royal Academy enabled WS to study the work of the Impressionists and some of the Post-Impressionists, including Cézanne.
WS was awarded a Landseer Prize of £20 and a silver medal for two models of busts from life.
In January, at his request, WS transferred to the painting school. He was awarded another Landseer Prize of £20 and a bronze medal for two paintings of figures from life.
On leaving the RA Schools, WS was awarded a Leverhulme Travelling Scholarship. This enabled him to move to a studio in Cornwall, at Mousehole near Penzance.
WS returned to London from Cornwall to see his student painting, The Adoration of the Shepherds, exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
On 19 May WS married Mary Lucas, a painter and sculptor, and a fellow student at the RA Schools. They spent time in Cornwall and Dorset before travelling to Italy.
The Scotts lived in Italy for six months visiting Florence, Venice and Rome before moving to France. They settled in Pont-Aven, Brittany, where they met Geoffrey Nelson, with whom they set up the Pont-Aven School of Painting: WS taught figure and still-life painting, Mary drawing and sculpture, and Geoffrey Nelson landscape painting.
They made visits to Paris and met several other artists there. On the recommendation of the French painter Maurice Asselin, WS was elected Sociétaire du Salon d’Automne and two of his paintings were shown at the annual Salon d’Automne exhibition.
That winter they spent in the South of France, staying near St Tropez and Cagnes-sur-Mer.
William and Mary returned, via Paris, to Pont-Aven to teach and paint. They met two older painters associated with Gauguin; Emile Bernard and Maurice Denis.
On 29 August, only days before the outbreak of World War II, the Scotts abruptly left France, leaving many paintings and possessions in the care of the local innkepper, Julia Correlleau. They returned firstly to Britain before moving to Dublin, Ireland.
Their son Robert was born in Dublin on 5 January. In March the Scotts returned to London.
WS took a studio in Fernshaw Road, Chelsea, and began to exhibit in group shows at the Stafford Gallery and the Leicester Galleries.
In July Robert moved with his Aunt & Cousin to North America.
At the beginning of March the Scotts moved to Hallatrow, Somerset, where WS developed a market-garden. He began teaching part-time at the Bath School of Art, run by Clifford Ellis.
James, a second son, was born in Wells on 9 July.
WS volunteered for the Army, serving initially in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
Based in London, he was able to continue painting in his studio in his spare time.
In September he had his first one-man show, at the Leger Galleries in Old Bond Street, London.
WS was commissioned by Sheila Shannon and W. J. Turner to illustrate Soldiers’ Verse, an anthology of war poems edited by Patric Dickinson. WS produced 12 lithographs for the book, which was published in 1945 as one of a series of illustrated poetry books.
In January, Robert was brought back to his parents in England.
Until this time, neither Robert nor James had been aware of the other’s existence.
WS was posted to Ruabon, in North Wales, where he was transferred to the map-making section of the Royal Engineers. Several artists were stationed at Ruabon, and they were allowed time off to paint. WS turned to watercolour painting, with landscapes as his primary subject, as well as some narrative scenes.
WS had a second solo exhibition at the Leger Gallery in February (50 watercolours and drawings). This was followed in December by a joint show, at the same gallery, with Mary Scott and Bernard Meninsky (20 watercolours and drawings).
Although World War II ended with Japan’s surrender in August, WS remained in the Army until the following year. In September, he was made a Sargeant in the Army Education Corps and moved, along with the rest of his Unit, to Longleat Camp in Warminster.
WS was demobolized in January. He visited Pont-Aven to take possession of the paintings and art works left at the outbreak of war in 1939, but was told by Mme Correlleau that they had all been taken by the Germans. He also went to Paris where he saw the exhibition ‘A Thousand Years of Still-Life Painting’. He returned to Somerset and was appointed Senior Painting Master at the Bath Academy of Art, at Corsham Court, Wiltshire, England. He held this post until 1956, working alongside other artists such as Kenneth Armitage & Bryan Wynter, and bringing in painters such as Terry Frost and Peter Lanyon in the 1950s as part-time painting tutors. For some time Mary Scott taught modelling there.
Seven of WS’s paintings were included in the exhibition ‘Four Young British Painters’, organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain, which toured in the UK.
Several of WS's works were included in the British Council exhibition, ‘Modern British Paintings (1942-1947)’, which toured Europe.
WS had his first one-man show at the Leicester Galleries in London (30 paintings, mostly still lifes and nudes). His work was also included in the show ‘Forty Years of Modern Art’ presented by the newly founded Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.
WS was elected a member of the London Group.
In February, WS had his second one-man show at the Leicester Galleries. He was one of sixty artists invited by the Arts Council of Great Britain to paint a large picture for the exhibition ‘Sixty Paintings for '51’ which formed part of the Festival of Britain. WS painted a large table still life, in which he simplified the pictorial idiom, reduced the role of colour and emphasized the function of area division and of paint texture. In the paintings which followed, he came close to abstraction in some and to complete abstraction in others. Some of the latter were shown in London Group exhibitions in 1951 and 1952 and presented him as part of an abstract movement in British art, led by Victor Pasmore and Kenneth and Mary Martin.
The Scotts took a flat in Chelsea, although they continued to spend much of their time at Hallatrow, and often spent summers in St Ives in Cornwall.
The Nicolas de Staël exhibition opened at the Matthiesen Gallery, New Bond Street, on 21 February. In June, WS and Patrick Heron travelled to Paris where they met de Staël.
WS had the first of many exhibitions at the Hanover Gallery, London. It was visited by J.J. Sweeney, Director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and by Andrew Ritchie, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His paintings were shown also in the exhibition mounted by Patrick Heron, ‘Space in Colour’, at the Hanover Gallery.
In July WS travelled to Canada to teach as a guest instructor at the Banff School of Fine Arts at the University of Alberta. He returned via New York where Martha Jackson, his future US dealer, introduced him to the leading New York School painters, including Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning and Kline. WS was interested in them as fellow artists, especially in Rothko who would remain a friend. It was principally the scale of their work that impressed him, and their confidence, but he sensed more than ever that his artisitc roots lay in the European tradition.
Twelve WS oil paintings were included in the British Council’s contribution to the II Bienal at São Paulo, Brazil. Sweeney included WS in his ‘Younger European Painters’ show at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and its tour to six other US centres.
WS showed drawings in a joint exhibition at the Hanover Gallery with Francis Bacon. In October the exhibition ‘3 British Artists Hepworth, Scott, Bacon’ opened at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York (WS showed twelve paintings). WS was included in the book Nine Abstract Artists, written by Lawrence Alloway, published by Tiranti Press, London.
An exhibition of the same name, including work by Heron, Pasmore, Frost and Roger Hilton, was mounted at the Redfern Gallery, London, in January.
Four WS paintings were included in the exhibition ‘The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors’ shown first, in May, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then on tour in three other major cities in the USA. At the same time Martha Jackson showed ‘Younger American and European Painters’, which included two WS paintings.
Returning from a holiday in Spain, the Scotts visited Lascaux in France to see the cave paintings.
In July, WS resigned from his post at Bath Academy of Art to devote all his time to his own work.
Herbert Read included WS in his exhibition ‘Critic’s Choice’, an openly personal selection shown at Arthur Tooth & Sons, London.
WS paintings were included in the exhibition ‘New Trends in British Art’ held at the New York Art Foundation in Rome.
Along with Kenneth Armitage and William Hayter, WS was chosen by the British Council for the British Pavilion at the XXIX Venice Biennale. This group of works, with some changes, went on to tour five other European centres. WS and Mary stayed in Venice for some months while WS painted in a studio provided for him by the Accademia.
The Director of the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool wished to buy a WS still life for £247 but the idea was rejected by his committee.
WS was commissioned to paint a large mural for Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, by one of the architects of the Hospital Eugene Rosenberg.
In August, Mark Rothko and his family came to stay with the Scotts at the cottage in Hallatrow. WS began work on the Altnagelvin mural.
Blue Abstract, 1959 (now in the collection of the Walker Gallery, Liverpool) was awarded first prize in the British painting section at the second John Moores Exhibition, Liverpool.
That November and December the Galerie Charles Lienhard in Zurich showed a large exhibition of WS’s drawings and paintings, primarily abstract.
WS’s work was included in the exhibition ‘Four Internationals’ at the Gallery Moos in Toronto.
A major WS retrospective was organized by the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover. It included over seventy paintings and gouaches. It was shown in Hannover throughout June and July and then toured to three other German cities.
Eleven paintings by WS were included in the British Council’s contribution to the VI São Paulo Bienal, Brazil; WS was awarded the Sanbra (International Critics) Purchase Prize.
In November, the mural which WS had painted for Altnagelvin Hospital was shown at the Tate Gallery in London before being moved to Northern Ireland.
In February, WS's mural was unveiled at Altnagelvin Hospital. Being entirely abstract, it caused much controversy in Londonderry.
WS was appointed a visiting tutor to the RA Schools and senior member of the Prix de Rome Committee.
A WS retrospective was shown at the Kunsthalle, Berne, Switzerland, and at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Ronald Alley's book William Scott was published in the Methuen ‘Art in Progress’ series, London. His work was included in the exhibition ‘British Painting in the Sixties’ organised by the Contemporary Art Society.
In October an exhibition of WS’s paintings was shown at the Galerie Anderson-Mayer in Paris recently founded by David Anderson, Martha Jackson’s son.
WS was invited by the Ford Foundation to take a twelve-month residency in West Berlin under the scheme run by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). In December, he and Mary moved to Berlin, and formed friendships with Xenakis, the Greek composer, and Hans Scharoun, the German architect as well as Piers Read, the novelist and son of Herbert Read. WS was given the use of a fine studio in the Kunstakademie.
Five of WS’s paintings were included in the large exhibition ‘54:64 Painting and Sculpture of a Decade’, presented by the Gulbenkian Foundation and held at the Tate Gallery from April to June.
Alan Bowness (intro. and ed.), William Scott: Paintings, was published by Lund Humphries, London; a book of 150 illustrations (including some in colour), brief texts and a full exhibition history.
WS was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Ulster Academy.
The Scotts moved to Bennetts Hill Farm, Coleford, near Bath, Somerset.
WS was created C.B.E. in January.
An exhibition of WS oil paintings and gouaches opened at the Gimpel-Hanover Gallery in Zurich in March.
WS completed his mural for the Irish Television Centre in Dublin, which had been commissioned by the architects of this new building, Scott, Tallon, Walker.
In the spring, WS travelled with a group of artists and critics to Italy. They visited Milan and Venice in a trip organised by the British Council. WS and Mary also visit Greece.
WS paintings were included in the Arts Council’s exhibition ‘Modern Irish Painting’ which toured Finland, Sweden and Denmark for three years. Some 20 gouaches were shown at the Richard Demarco Gallery during the Edinburgh Festival. This was the first exhibition of his work to be shown in the land of his birth.
WS began work on etchings for his unpublished book and play entitled Private Suite or Dubious Love. He worked on graphic prints with both the Kelpra and Curwin Studios.
A small book of WS gouaches, in cerulean blue, and poems by Edward Lucie-Smith, A Girl Surveyed, was published by the Hanover Gallery to accompany WS’s show of related drawings and gouaches that March.
He was invited to contribute a design to be sold at a gala evening in June at the London Coliseum on the theme of Titian’s painting The Death of Actaeon.
WS’s retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, including paintings, drawings and gouaches, was organized by Alan Bowness in collaboration with the artist.
An exhibition of WS prints was shown at Waddington Galleries, London.
WS travelled to Australia, Mexico and India as a visiting lecturer for the British Council. Similar visits to Canada and Singapore followed the same year.
After the closure of the Hanover Gallery in 1972, Gimpel Fils became WS’s London gallery and represented his work for the rest of his life.
WS was made an Honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Art, London.
Lou Klepac’s book of WS drawings was published by David Anderson in Buffalo, USA.
WS was made an Honorary Doctor of Literature, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Scotts went to Japan where WS exhibited at the Kasahara Gallery in Tokyo and Osaka. They returned via Hong Kong.
WS was made an Honorary Doctor of Literature, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
In March, the Scotts travelled to the USA to attend the opening of the Antoni Tàpies exhibition in New York.
An exhibition of WS works dating from 1946 onwards toured Enniskillen, Londonderry and Belfast.
WS began his Poem for a Jug series, which would be exhibited at Gimpel Fils the following year.
WS travelled to Osaka, Japan, with Mary to oversee the hanging of his exhibition at the Gallery Kasahara.
A solo exhibition of WS’s war paintings was shown at the Imperial War Museum, London.
Mary Scott suffered a stroke.
In April, WS visited New York for the opening of his exhibition at the Gimpel & Weizenhoffer Gallery.
WS was elected Member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
The early life of WS was the subject of a Channel 4 television film Every Picture Tells a Story, directed by James Scott.
WS was awarded a Korn Ferry prize at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London.
In June, a WS retrospective exhibition opened at the Ulster Museum, Belfast. It was subsequently shown in Dublin and Edinburgh.
For the second year running, WS was awarded a Korn Ferry prize at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (jointly, with John Hoyland).
The Tate Gallery’s exhibition, ‘Portrait of the Artist’, included WS's only self-portrait; it was reproduced on the jacket of the accompanying book.
WS completed his last two lithographs with Stanley Jones of the Curwen Press.
WS died on 28 December at his home in Coleford. He had suffered for some years from Alzheimer’s disease.
On 15 January WS was buried as he had requested in the grave that already contained his father as well as his sister Violet in Enniskillen.
A memorial exhibition of WS’s work was shown as part of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
Mary Scott died on 28 April at home in Coleford and was subsequently laid to rest beside WS in Enniskillen.