William Scott (1913-1989)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
William Scott (1913-1989)

Blue, White and Yellow

William Scott (1913-1989)
Blue, White and Yellow
oil on canvas
48 x 78in. (122 x 198cm.)
Painted in 1971
Erica Brausen, London.
New Art Centre, London.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 28 June 1984, lot 644.
Gimpel Fils, London.
Acquired from the above by Jeremy Lancaster, 15 November 1984.
S. Whitfield (ed.), William Scott Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings 1969-1989, Vol. 4, London 2013, no. 694 (illustrated in colour, p. 74).
London, Tate Gallery, William Scott: Paintings, Drawings, Gouaches 1938-1971, 1972, no. 112.
London, New Arts Centre, Art for Investment, 1982.
Belfast, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ulster Museum, William Scott, 1986, no. 63, as 'Composition with Pan'. This exhibition later travelled to Dublin, Guinness Hop Store; Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland; and Edinburgh, Gallery of Modern Art.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

‘The forms I use are the forms I see about me and the forms I have dreamt about since I was a child.’
-William Scott

‘Apart from the subject, which I can do nothing about, what interests me in the beginning of a picture is the division of spaces and forms; these must be made to move and be animated like living matter. I have a strong preference for primitive and elementary forms and I should like to combine a sensual eroticism with a starkness which will be instinctive and uncontrived.’
-William Scott

Painted in 1971, Blue, White and Yellow illustrates the new sense of purity and focus that marked William Scott’s painterly work during the late 1960s and early 1970s, as he embarked upon a series of minimalist, semi-abstract compositions that extended his explorations of the still-life genre. Discussing this turn in his art, which Professor Norbert Lynton has described as ‘neo-classical’, the artist explained: ‘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’ (W. Scott, quoted in N. Lynton, William Scott, London 2004, p. 300).

While featuring many of the same objects and utensils that had dominated the artist’s oeuvre, the familiar forms of pots and saucepans, bowls and cups are now distilled down to bare, simple outlines and neat silhouettes, which appear to hover weightlessly against the void, held in place by an imperceptible internal tension. In Blue, White and Yellow the ubiquitous frying pan appears at the heart of the composition, its slender handle pointing straight upwards, as if seen from above, while a small, rounded bowl stands alongside, its profile suggesting a contrasting perspective that challenges our understanding of the space before us. By employing such pictorial devices, Scott allows the composition to become an intense meditation on the relationship between shape and line, space and colour, considering the myriad nuances and variations possible within this simple pair of objects. As Scott explained, shortly after the present work’s creation: ‘The subject of my painting … would appear to be the kitchen still-life, but in point of fact … my subject is the division on canvas of spaces, and relating one space or one shape to another. That is the fundamental sort of reason for my painting’ (W. Scott, ‘William Scott in Conversation with Tony Rothon’, in Studio International, vol. 188, December 1974, p. 230).

While filled with a minimalist, sparse beauty, paintings such as Blue, White and Yellow retain a rich, painterly quality in their execution, the edges of their forms rendered in soft, almost velvety, lines that reveal the free-hand nature of their creation. Subtle pentimenti remain just visible along the edges of the frying pan, traces of the artist’s shifting focus as he reconsidered the spatial relationships between the objects within the composition. The brightly coloured yellow boundary on three of the four edges of the canvas, meanwhile, is an effect Scott explored for a brief period in 1971, variously playing with subtly variegated strips of green and yellow. Adding a sense of depth and space to the composition, whilst simultaneously making the colours within resonate with a new electricity, this band of colour brings a richness to the artist’s visions, at once lending an impression of confinement whilst simultaneously suggesting an infinite space beyond the boundaries of the canvas.

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