From Gainsborough to Hitchens: A Selection of Paintings and Drawings from the Howard Bliss Collection opened at the Leicester Galleries on 5 January (closed 2 February). Howard Bliss was an important collector of Scott’s paintings, seven of which were included in the show.
The Private Collector: An Exhibition of Pictures and Sculpture Selected from the Members of the Contemporary Society’s Own Collections opened at the Tate Gallery on 23 March (closed 23 April). Two collectors showed paintings by Scott: Raymond Mortimer and Elizabeth Watt.
Ten works by Scott were included in Painters’ Progress, an exhibition organised by John Rothenstein which opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on 11 May (closed 15 July). John Rothenstein was then Director of the Tate Gallery and this exhibition was one of the many ways in which he demonstrated his commitment to modern British art. His theme was the development of ten contemporary artists, beginning with Duncan Grant as the most senior and ending with Prunella Clough, then aged 31 (the other artists were L.S. Lowry, Anthony Levett-Prinsep, Ivon Hitchens, Keith Vaughan, John Armstrong, John Piper and John Napper). The artists were asked to choose pictures covering their whole careers including some of their earliest and latest works.
The Scott family travelled to Pont-Aven where they spent the summer. It was a camping trip and they pitched their Bell Tent in a field outside the town. Scott took with him a painting to give to Julia Correlleau in order that he could be represented in the Hôtel de la Poste collection.
Scott was invited by the Arts Council of Great Britain to paint a large picture, no less than 45 x 60 inches (114.3 x 152.4 cm), for the exhibition Sixty Paintings for ’51, which formed part of the 1951 Festival of Britain. The painting, Still Life, 1951, which the artist considered to be a culminating point in his long series of frying-pan pictures, presented a considerable challenge.
During the course of 1950 Scott met several artists who were to become close friends. The sculptor F.E. McWilliam (1909–92), then working on large sculptures for the Festival of Britain, was one, Louis le Brocquy (b. 1916) another. Le Brocquy had arrived from Dublin and Scott introduced him to McWilliam. A third was Paul Feiler (b. 1918): Scott approached Feiler in the artist supplies shop Barton & Long in Clifton, Bristol, and asked if he could visit his studio.’
L’Ecole de Paris 1900–1950 opened at the Royal Academy. In his copy of the catalogue Scott put a pencil mark against the following paintings: Braque’s The Studio, 1949; Miró’s Femme, Etoiles, 1945; Alfred Manessier’s Espace Matinal, 1949.
Scott’s second one-man show opened at the Leicester Galleries on 1 February (closed 22 February). The exhibition attracted a number of reviews, mostly positive. The week after the exhibition opened the Scotts visited the artist’s mother in Enniskillen.
The only self-portrait made by the artist was published on the front page of the February issue of Art News & Review, a London fortnightly produced in a newspaper format. (The editor of Art News & Review, Bernard Denvir, had developed a format for showcasing relatively new artists by reproducing their self-portraits on the front page of the magazine.)
Scott was included in the exhibition 21 Modern British Painters, organised by the British Council, which toured Canada and the United States. According to a press cutting found amongst the artist’s papers, he was represented also in the Belfast Art Gallery’s show of contemporary painting.
Scott was included in Sixty Paintings for ’51, a touring exhibition organised by the Arts Council of Great Britain as part of the Festival of Britain. It opened at Manchester City Art Gallery on 2 May (the tour ended in June 1952). The artists who contributed to the exhibition were chosen from an initial list of 145 names. As it turned out, 54 artists were represented after some either refused the invitation or subsequently withdrew, or else were prevented at the last minute from submitting their canvases. In June, the exhibition was shown at the R.B.A. Galleries, Suffolk Street, London, and subsequently at the art galleries in Leicester, Liverpool, Bristol, Norwich, Plymouth, Leeds, Newcastle, Brighton, York and Preston. The exhibition was devised by Philip James with the aim of encouraging corporate patronage of the visual arts.
Scott supplied pictures for the Exhibition of Architecture for the Public at Castle Street, Belfast. Exhibitors include members of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) Exhibition Design Group.
The Scotts stayed in Cornwall, at Nile Studio, Sennen.
Scott visited Paris.
Scott exhibited two unidentified abstract paintings at the annual London Group exhibition.
Scott’s work became more abstract and that summer he embarked on a series of abstract gouaches. (He would return to oil painting in the winter of 1952, developing the more linear forms of structure he had arrived at while working on paper.)
The Scotts took a flat at 12 Editha Mansions in Chelsea, London, although they continued to spend much of their time in Somerset, at Hallatrow.
An exhibition of paintings by Nicolas de Staël opened at the Matthiesen Gallery, New Bond Street, London. The show had a profound impact upon Scott’s work.
From 1–3 March, the first of the three weekend exhibitions of abstract art organised by Adrian Heath took place at 22 Fitzroy Street, where Heath had his studio.
Seventeen Collectors. An Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture from the Private Collections of Members of the Executive Committee of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) opened at the Tate Gallery on 21 March (closed 27 April). This was a sequel to the exhibition of works from the private collections of the members of the CAS in March 1950. Works by Scott were included in the collections of Raymond Mortimer, Howard Bliss and Edward le Bas.
Artists for Peace Exhibition opened at the Royal Hotel, Woburn Place, London, on 10 June (closed 22 June). One painting by Scott is listed in the catalogue but was not shown (Pipe and Bowl).
On 30 June Scott and Patrick Heron travelled to Paris where, by chance, they met Nicolas de Staël. It was almost certainly on this visit that Scott saw the large exhibition of still-life painting that left a lasting impression on him. (Scott told Alan Bowness that, in 1946, he had seen an exhibition in Paris called A thousand years of still life painting; as there is no record of such an exhibition in Paris that year the exhibition he remembered must have been La Nature Morte de l’Antiquité à nos Jours, which opened at the Orangerie des Tuileries in April 1952).
The Scotts stayed at Treganhoe Farm, Sancreed, in Cornwall. The painter Peter (Piotr) Potworowski rented a cottage nearby.
Scott informed the Leicester Galleries in an untraced letter of 20 November that he had decided to show his pictures with a different gallery, presumably the Hanover Gallery.
Scott was made a member of the Royal West of England Academy, in Bristol (Lord Methuen was the President).
Opposing Forces opened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on 28 January (closed 28 February). The exhibition was selected by Michel Tapié and Peter Watson and included work by Georges Mathieu, Henri Michaux, Alfonso Ossorio, Jackson Pollock and Jean-Paul Riopelle. It may have been on this occasion that Scott first encountered Pollock’s work (three untitled paintings of 1949 were shown) although there is no evidence that he saw the exhibition.
Scott was commissioned by the advertising agency Colman Prentis and Varley (on behalf of the department store D.H. Evans) to produce a colour drawing for Poster and Bus Advertising to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The poster, which shows the State Coach carrying the newly crowned Queen in procession down the Mall, was displayed on the side of 500 buses on the routes to and from D.H.Evans.
Scott exhibited at the third and final weekend exhibition of abstract art held at Adrian Heath’s studio at 22 Fitzroy Street.
The first of Scott’s many solo exhibitions opened at the Hanover Gallery, 32a St George’s Street, London, on 9 June (closed 3 July). It was visited by J.J. Sweeney, Director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and by Andrew Ritchie, Director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Scott’s work was included in two group shows in London: Eleven British Painters at the ICA Gallery in Dover Street, which opened on 3 July (closed 1 August), and Space in Colour at the Hanover Gallery (organised by Patrick Heron), which opened on 7 July (closed 7 August).
6 July–15 August
Scott spent several weeks as guest instructor at the Banff School of Fine Arts (now Banff Centre) at the University of Alberta, Canada.
Scott returned to England via New York where the dealer Martha Jackson invited him to stay in her gallery at 22 East 66th Street so that he could meet various leading New York School painters, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. (The Martha Jackson Gallery was to represent Scott in the United States until its closure in 1979.) Jackson also had a house at Southampton on Long Island and she invited Scott to spend a weekend there, during which time he visited de Kooning’s improvised studio on the porch of Leo and Illeana Castelli’s house in East Hampton, where he was photographed in front of a painting in progress from the Woman series. Martha Jackson also arranged a visit to the painter Alfonso Ossorio who had bought Jean Dubuffet’s original collection of art brut. This was housed on his large estate, The Creeks, also in East Hampton.
Scott was one of the artists invited to submit a painting for the exhibition Painting into Textiles, which opened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, on 21 October (closed 14 November 1953). The exhibition was sponsored by the Ambassador, an international magazine promoting British exports. The firm that produced the textiles was David Whitehead Ltd, an enterprise which through its championing of modern design had gained particular recognition at the time of the Festival of Britain in 1951. Several of Scott’s paintings (in gouache) were bought by David Whitehead Ltd and made into textiles.
Twelve oil paintings by Scott were included in the British Council’s contribution to the second Bienal at São Paulo, Brazil.
James Johnson Sweeney included Scott in his Younger European Painters show at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, which opened on 2 December (closed 21 February 1954). The exhibition toured to six other US centres. Scott was the only British artist represented in the exhibition.
Scott exhibited two recent paintings in Younger American and European Painters, which opened at the Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, on 18 May (closed 12 June).
Scott showed drawings in a joint exhibition with Francis Bacon at the Hanover Gallery, which opened on 8 June (closed 16 July).
Five paintings by Scott were included in 3 British Artists Hepworth Scott Bacon, which opened at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York on 12 October (closed 6 November). Hepworth was represented by five sculptures and six works in oil and pencil, while Bacon showed four oils.
Scott was one of the artists included in the book Nine Abstract Artists: their work and theory introduced by Lawrence Alloway, published by Tiranti Press, London. The artists were those who had participated in the weekend exhibitions organised by Adrian Heath. The book took the form of a 16-page text by Alloway followed by statements by each of the nine artists. Heath was responsible for the book, which had the same format as one he had brought out the previous year, Abstract Painting: Its Origin and Meaning.
The exhibition Nine Abstract Artists (based on Alloway’s book of the same title) opened at the Redfern Gallery, London, on 11 January (closed 29 January). Scott showed three paintings, each listed as Abstract composition (Oil), and a print. None has been firmly identified.
Four paintings by Scott were included in the exhibition The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on 10 May (closed 7 August). The exhibition, organised by Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, toured to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Los Angeles County Museum and San Francisco Museum of Art. The catalogue published a rare statement by the artist. To coincide with the Museum of Modern Art show Martha Jackson showed Younger American and European Painters which opened on 18 May (closed 12 June). It included two paintings by Scott.
Scott showed four paintings in the exhibition, Bacon, Scott, Sutherland at the Hanover Gallery, which opened on 28 June (closed 29 July). The aim of the exhibition was to show the artists as representatives of three different genres: figure (Bacon), still life (Scott) and landscape (Sutherland). It also made the point that the most advanced new art in Britain was not confined to abstraction.
Scott showed a sculpture in the exhibition New Sculptors and Painter-Sculptors at the ICA in London. He would make sculpture alongside his paintings throughout the 1950s.
The Scotts spent a family holiday in a rented apartment at L’Ametlla de Mar, a fishing port on the Catalan coast. The artists Jo Gee and Bill Brooker were also staying in the town. Returning from Spain, the Scotts visited Lascaux in south-western France to see the Palaeolithic cave paintings (a visit possibly inspired by the exhibition of Henri Breuil’s copies of the cave paintings which had been shown at the Arts Council Gallery in October the previous year). Scott would have seen not only the celebrated paintings of animals but abstract imagery composed of dots and lines as well as geometric shapes such as triangles, circles and pentagons.
Piet Mondrian 1872–1944 opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. Scott visited the exhibition (a copy of the catalogue was found amongst his papers).
Scott was included in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, organised by the Department of Fine Arts at the Carnegie Institute.
Modern Art in the United States: A Selection from the Collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York opened at the Tate Gallery on 5 January (closed 12 February). The final room of the exhibition, which made a considerable impact, was given over to major works by the abstract expressionists.
Having decided to retire from his post at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, in order to concentrate on his own work, Scott rented a studio in Chelsea (his resignation meant he no longer had the use of his large studio at Corsham).
Herbert Read included Scott in his selection of recent work shown as Critic’s Choice at Arthur Tooth & Sons, London. The exhibition opened on 11 September (closed 6 October).
William Scott Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture opened at the Hanover Gallery (closed 26 October). The reviews were mixed, particularly about the painter’s recent nudes. The most enthusiastic response came from another painter/writer, Andrew Forge, who was struck by the painter’s modelling of the surfaces which he saw as sculptural and central to ‘the beauty of these pictures’.
Vision and Reality opened at Wakefield City Art Museum on 26 September (closed 26 October). The exhibition, which was made up of leading contemporary British painters, was organised by Helen Kapp, the forward-looking director of the museum.
The Scotts visited Paris and Rome, returning at the end of the month. In a letter dated 31 October (the day after their return), Scott wrote to Martha Jackson saying, ‘We had a marvellous time in Rome, the Burris [Alberto Burri and his wife] were very kind and introduced Mary and I to painters in Rome. I am very impressed with Alberto’s painting, he has a beautiful touch.’ Scott also mentions seeing works by the sculptor Germaine Richier in Paris. Scott’s visit to Pompeii (to which he referred in his 1959 British Council Recorded Illustrated Lecture) must have taken place during this trip to Italy.
Scott’s first one-man show at the Martha Jackson Gallery, now located in new premises at 32 East 69th Street, New York, opened on 29 October (closed 17 November). Scott did not go over to New York for the opening.
At some point in 1956, William and Mary Scott posed for portrait busts by F.E. McWilliam. (In January 1957, McWilliam sent Sir John Rothenstein, Director of the Tate Gallery, photographs of three bronze sculptures; ‘William Scott, Mary Scott and Elisabeth Frink’, the last a full length portrait of the 26 year old sculptor. The Tate Trustees decided to buy the Scott busts.)
Statements. A Review of British Abstract Art in 1956 was held at the ICA, in Dover Street, London. Scott was not included in this exhibition, whether because he declined to participate, or was not invited is not known.
Martha Jackson came to Europe in June, stopping briefly in London to see the artist’s latest paintings, before going on to Paris where the Scotts joined her for a few days early the following month.
Scott was invited to show in the first John Moores Liverpool Exhibition, which opened at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, on 10 November (closed 11 January 1958).
Scott was represented by an oil (unidentified) in the survey exhibition, Dimensions: British Abstract Art 1948–1957, which opened on 6 December (closed 21 December). The exhibition was organised by Lawrence Alloway, and held at the O’Hana Gallery, London.
Scott was represented by two oils and three large charcoal figure drawings in the exhibition New Trends in British Art held at the Rome-New York Art Foundation in Rome. The exhibition was part of a programme of cooperation between the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and the Rome-New York Art Foundation. The works were selected by Lawrence Alloway who also wrote the ‘Introduction’ to the catalogue (the ‘Foreword’ was written by Herbert Read).
Hugh Scrutton, Director of the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, proposed buying the painting Scott had sent to the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition the previous November (Liverpool Still Life, 1957). However, the idea was rejected by the Libraries, Museums and Arts Committee after some members had expressed the views that the work was an ‘insult’ and a ‘monstrosity’ and that ‘the city council would not support the expenditure’. The painting was acquired later that year by the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.
Scott was one of three British artists chosen by the British Council to represent Britain at the XXIX Venice Biennale: the other two were Kenneth Armitage and William Hayter. The selection was made by a committee headed by Sir Philip Hendy and included Herbert Read, J.M. Richards and John Rothenstein. The Scotts stayed in Venice during the Biennale, having found an apartment (1063 San Trovaso) to rent behind the Accademia large enough to accommodate the couple and their two sons. Scott was able to paint in a studio provided for him by the Accademia, where he had the space to work on large size canvases. Coming across the work of Jasper Johns for the first time was memorable for Scott. Flag, 1954–5 (now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York) was hanging in the Sezione Internazionale Artisti Giovani in the Palazzo Centrale (Sala XXXIV). The Scotts also met and formed a lasting friendship with the painter Antoni Tàpies, who was representing Spain at the Biennale, and his wife Teresa. Like Scott, Tàpies had been given his first New York show at the Martha Jackson Gallery.
The Scotts, with their son James, left Venice to return to England on 4 September. They visited Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, before driving through Switzerland to Brussels where they arrived on 9 September in time to visit the World’s Fair, Expo 58. They travelled on to London the following day. The prestige afforded by the Biennale, and the success of the British Pavilion, did much to secure Scott’s international standing, as did the European tour the British Council arranged to follow on from the Biennale.
Scott was commissioned by the architectural firm Yorke Rosenberg and Mardall to paint a large mural for the entrance hall of Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the first National Health hospital in Britain (the mural had first been discussed in 1956 as a project to be undertaken by Paul Feiler). The mural went through many stages and was eventually completed by September 1961, more than 18 months after the hospital opened.
Scott was among the 23 painters and 12 sculptors chosen to represent Great Britain in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture held at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. The exhibition opened on 5 December (closed 8 February 1959).
At some point in 1958 Scott began working with Alastair Morton, the director of the textile firm Edinburgh Weavers.
Scott recorded an illustrated lecture about his work for the British Council. The slides for the lecture have disappeared but several typescripts indicate that there were 34 in all (with the title of each work given in the margin). The lecture charts the artist’s development from the paintings of 1938 to Upright Abstract, 1957.
The New American Painting opened at the Tate Gallery on 24 February (closed 22 March). The exhibition, which showed the work of 17 painters, was arranged jointly by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Arts Council of Great Britain. The catalogue, a copy of which Scott owned, carried an introduction by Alfred H. Barr, then Director of the Museum Collections at MoMA.
Paintings by William Scott opened at the Martha Jackson Gallery on 24 March (closed 18 April). The exhibition consisted of eleven oils and three pencil drawings. The Scotts went over to New York for the opening, even though Scott himself was reluctant to do so.
Scott was one of three painters interviewed by David Sylvester for a BBC radio talks programme. The other two were Alan Davie and Peter Lanyon. Sylvester began the programme by explaining that he had chosen the three painters of their generation (born between 1913 and 1920) with the biggest international reputation. As he saw it, they were three painters whose approach to abstraction was ‘altogether less doctrinaire’ than it had been during the first half of the twentieth-century.
Mark Rothko and his family came to stay at Hallatrow. Rothko spent the summer of 1959 touring Europe with his wife and daughter, arriving in London in August. The Rothkos stayed first with the Scotts before travelling to St Erth, Cornwall, where they were met by Peter Lanyon (who had known Rothko since 1957 when Lanyon had his first New York show). About a week or so before Rothko’s visit Scott had begun work on the mural for Altnagelvin Hospital. The timing was fortuitous. Before Rothko left for Europe he had nearly completed a large commission for a public space, his murals for The Four Seasons restaurant on the ground floor of the Seagram Building in New York.
Skaill, a furnishing fabric in jacquard-woven wool, was included in a new range of textiles produced by Edinburgh Weavers and shown at their premises in Mount Street, London, W1.
Blue Abstract, 1959 was awarded first prize in the British painting section at the second John Moores Liverpool Exhibition. The international jury was made up of the Italian critic Giulio Carlo Argan, Dr Kurt Martin and Professor A. Hammacher, Director of the Kröller-Müller Museum, Amsterdam. The grand prize of £1,000 went to Patrick Heron for Black Painting, Red, Brown and Olive (1959).
A one-man exhibition opened at the Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich (closed 12 December). Many of the 70 works shown were listed as Painting, 1959 and not all have been identified.