William Scott 1913 - 1989


Galerie Charles Lienhardt, Zurich
Private Collection, Switzerland


Zurich, Galerie Charles Leinhardt, William Scott, 1959, cat no.25


Having returned from a brief essay into abstraction in the early 1950s Scott had, to a large extent, concentrated for much of the rest of the decade on the still-life subjects of his early career.
However, as the paintings developed in the last years of the decade, the objects themselves became less and less important, their forms becoming increasingly simplified and distorted, with their importance lying in their use as formal compositional elements. Freed from a need to keep the recognisable form of the object, Scott became ever more willing to use each one as vehicle for textural diversity, either heightening a colour contrast with the brushwork, or in some paintings using the paint handling itself to delineate forms within a like-coloured background. Similarly the setting of the image could be manipulated, with the suggested planes of a still life composition becoming an equally weighted element in the image.
Thus, in the present work Scott has broken down the recognisable elements of a still life to such an extent that it appears at first sight to be entirely abstract. However, closer inspection begins to suggest the line of the edge of the table dividing the picture plane and the vestiges of the familiar forms of cup and pan floating across the surface. By removing their obvious connotations, the forms were released by the artist to act as simple signifiers and mark a path forward towards the full abstraction Scott would achieve in the early 1960s. One distinguishing feature of Scott’s work at this time is the supremely confident and varied handling of the paint surface which is seen at its very best in the present painting. The range of textures that are drawn together are quite remarkable in their variance, from the richly stroked palette-knifed background to the deeply incised line which delineates the large circular form that provides the central feature of the composition.