William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)
Selected property from a Private Collector
William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)

Still Life Variations 2

Details
William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)
Still Life Variations 2
signed and dated 'W. Scott 69' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm.)
This work is recorded in the William Scott Archive as No. 1402 and will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the works in oil.
Provenance
with Martha Jackson Gallery, New York.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 10 June 2005, lot 142.
with Richard Green, London.
Exhibited
New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, William Scott, January - February 1973.

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Lot Essay

In 1969 Scott embarked on what proved to be a remarkably fruitful series of paintings. Scott said: 'My second phase of abstraction happened much like the first. The pictures were now larger and a process of elimination again took place - hardly with my awareness. I had returned to a new phase of abstraction with the difference that I was now prepared to leave larger areas of undisturbed colour. I no longer worry whether a painting is about something or not: I am only concerned with the expectation from a flat surface of an illusion' (William Scott quoted in exhibition catalogue, William Scott, New York, McCaffrey Fine Art, 2010, p. 53).

Clearly these still lifes used many of the motifs which had appeared in his earlier paintings. The frying pan, its handle pointed straight up, round-bottomed bowls with flat tops, slightly squarer and usually smaller bowls without any straight side, and an occasional dish reappeared and yet their character and appearance had changed radically, as had their setting. The dishes and frying pans are seen from above, like plans; the bowls are seen in profile. This difference is not striking because it works idiomatically even though it is illogical in terms of visual realism. The individual objects are abstracted into flat silhouettes, at times merely outlines, too succinct to yield any sense of physical presence. There is no sense of a table top. The picture space is kept deliberately flat and the forms carefully spaced in floating rows. Though exceptionally neat, these paintings are never mechanical, and though they are strikingly economical there are never austere. The lines in Still Life Variation 2 vary like the hand-written characters. Scott worked their edges so that they merge with their white setting rather than contrast with it. While at first glance the painting may look brusque and impersonal, on closer inspection Scott's insistence on not making forms quite round or oval or symmetrical gives the painting vividness and life. While the palette of these paintings is usually limited, the colour used is resonant. In Still Life Variation 2 Scott adopts a range of blues on a white ground, subtly varying the colour tone and luminosity.

Norbert Lynton wrote: 'What drives the series is Scott's continual discovery of alternative compositional and colour strategies. In both respects, he was shunning drama and fullness. That means also shunning effects of time, whether in showing the process by which the final painting was reached or in suggesting ancientness in the subjects. We experience in them visual silence which, after the first moment, opens out into a kind of musicality. Time is sensed in the intervals between motifs, while the echoing shapes, together with the discreet use of colour, yield a sense of harmony. To encounter one of these still lifes in a mixed display is exhilarating; to see several together is fascinating because of the dialogue between them' (N. Lynton, William Scott, London, 2004, pp. 313-316).
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