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William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)
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William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)

Dark blue, light blue and white

William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)
Dark blue, light blue and white
signed 'W SCOTT' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
73½ x 48½ in. (186.7 x 123.2 cm)
Painted in 1964.

This work is recorded in the William Scott Archive as No. 522.
with Hanover Gallery, London.
with Gimpel Fils, London.
The artist, and by descent.
Berlin, Haus am Waldsee, Stadien und Impulse, September-October 1964 (illustrated, not numbered).
London, Hanover Gallery, William Scott, 1965, no. 2.
Dublin, Dawson Gallery, William Scott, 1967, no. 15.
London, Gimpel Fils, Every Picture tells a Story, 1985, no. 9.
Belfast, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, William Scott, June-August, 1986, no. 45, p. 62 (illustrated): this exhibition travelled to Dublin, Guinness Hop Store, August-September 1986; National Galleries of Scotland, October-November 1986; and Edinburgh, Gallery of Modern Art.
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Lot Essay

In 1958 Scott was commissioned by Altnagelvin Hospital, a new hospital in Londonderry, to paint a huge mural, some 46 feet long by 9 feet high, a task which occupied him until 1961. This work freed him from the horizon-line and acclerated the development of a completely non-figurative style. As Ronald Alley (William Scott, London, 1963, intro.) has commented, 'One of the results of working on such a vast scale was that his easel pictures themselves began to take on something of the character of his mural paintings. They not only tended to be larger than those that he had made before, but their shapes were often cut off by the edges of the composition in such a way as to suggest that the picture was a section of a larger field. An affinity to Egyptian wall paintings can be seen in some of the works of 1959-60, especially in those with an arrangement of flat shapes in tiers one above another; but with increasing clarification of his style and the use of a very small number of simple forms and large expanses of colour the treatment came closer to those of American painters, like Rothko and Newman. Instead of lozenges of colour there were usually irregular variants of the square and the circle - shapes floating in surrounding areas of emptiness. Yet despite an almost geometrical division of the picture surface, these were not, were essentially not, geometrical paintings. Their special character came from the unpredictable, exploratory edges of the forms; from the asymmetrical compositions with their suggestions of the movement and tensions, their nearly unstable equilibrium; and from the handling of the paint itself, the contrasts of fat paint and thin pain, or areas of uniform paint texture with others which were blotched and scored and encrusted. This tendency reached an especially pure and austere form in certain paintings in black on white, or in white on white, of 1960-61; but on the other hand it has also led to the more sensuous and improvisatory style of works like Blue painting of 1960 (Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo).

Though Scott has developed away from still life, the circles and rectangles in his non-figurative pictures still echo the kitchen pots and the table top. He is just as interested as ever in the division of spaces and in creating a tension between a few simple forms; his work is still that of a tonal painter, working with a restricted range of colour. Not only do certain shapes and colours (including a love of pure black and pure white) recur throughout his work, but he has always found it possible to go back to what he had done before. Perhaps most characteristic however, is Scott's blend of austerity and sensuality: the one is what saves his work from lushness, the other gives it density and richness and, at times, a primitive, instinctive immediacy rare in British art'.

The present composition was painted in Berlin, where Scott was Ford Foundation resident artist. In an article in the Evening Standard from 15 February 1964, the artist comments, 'I find Berlin stimulating. I'm meeting international artists whom I would not normally have contact with ... Every time an artist changes his environment, it is bound to have some effect'.


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