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

Nearing Circles

William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989)
Nearing Circles
signed and inscribed 'W SCOTT NEARING CIRCLES' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
63¼ x 68 in. (160.5 x 172.7 cm.)
Painted in 1961.
This work is recorded in the William Scott Archive as No. 0125.
with Hanover Gallery, London, where purchased by Alastair Morton (of Edinburgh Weavers 1932-1963).
Edinburgh Weavers, Carlisle.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, 1 July 1982, lot 353.
with Gimpel Fils, London, where purchased by the present owners, April 1983.
D. Thompson, VI Biennale exhibition catalogue, Sao Paolo, 1961, pp. 219-221.
J. Russell, The London Magazine, no. 3, illustrated.
J. Rothenstein, British Art since 1900, London, 1962, p. 179, pl. 138.
A. Bowness, William Scott Paintings, London, 1964, no. 126, illustrated.
N. Lynton, William Scott, London, 2004, p. 275.
London, Hanover Gallery, William Scott, May - June 1961, no. 14.
Sao Paolo, VI International Biennale, 1961, no. 7: this exhibition toured to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janiero, Museo de Arte Moderna, 1962. Bern, Kunsthalle, William Scott, August 1963, no. 34: this exhibition toured to Belfast, Ulster Museum, 1963, no. 40.
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Lot Essay

In 1959, William Scott embarked on his second major period of abstraction. Alan Bowness comments, 'The language is much richer and fuller than the 1952-4 period, the colours are stronger and more plagent, the forms have greater amplitude. The scale is altogether grander: the average dimensions of Scott's paintings steadily increase until he reaches his favourite size - 63 by 68 inches [the size of the present work]. This gives him a field on which to work which lies just within reach of the brush as he stands before the canvas, and the squarish shape suits his predilection for a table-like panel ... They can mean little in reproduction, which only serves as a reminder, for it is the texture and the paint quality that carry the picture. 'The actual touch and the way I put paint on canvas matter very much,' Scott says. 'I am extremely interested in textural qualities - the thick paint, the thin paint, the scratched lines, the almost careful-careless way in which a picture's painted ... I don't like a picture with a too slick, too efficient technique - painting with too much know-how' (see A. Bowness, William Scott Paintings, 1964, p. 11).

Nearing Circles was exhibited at the 1961 Hanover Gallery exhibition. Reviewing the exhibition in the 3-17 June 1961 edition of Arts Review Pierre Rouve noted, 'In the new paintings ... this space-defying Icarus has already landed on the firm ground of abstraction. The 'act of making' is over, the decantation has ended. We are faced with works whose growth has been concealed from us - with results and not with process ... is Scott's purely formal imagery as overwhelming as his distillations from the visible world? Are we not rather saturated by the use and abuse of two single notes from the unlimited geometrical scale: sqaure and circle?'. With the ability to see the whole of Scott's work, both before and after 1961, Norbert Lynton presents his argument to this in his recent monograph, 'These paintings are certainly closer to geometry than the Egypt series, also represented in the show, yet it seems obvious now that WS's freehand delineation of his squares and circles is wholly against the spirit of geometry. His process is visible, if less evident; the forms do not strike us as 'pure', and the ground he has landed on is far from 'firm' (see N. Lynton, loc. cit.).

In 1928 the textile firm Morton Sundour established an experimenal unit called Edinburgh Weavers under the leadership of James Morton with the aim of producing modern textiles for contemporary settings. From 1932 until his death in 1963, Edinburgh Weavers was run by his son, Alistair Morton who invited many friends including Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth to produce designs.

In 1953, The Institute of Contemporary Arts mounted an exhibition, Painting into Textiles, which displayed paintings and drawings by artists that could be purchased by manufacturers for production as textiles. As a result of the success of this exhibition, Edinburgh Weavers produced second range of artist's fabrics which included the designs of William Scott, Victor Vasarely, Ben Nicholson and Cecil Collins.

There is a sample of the fabric Nearing Circles, a wool and rayon furnishing fabric designed by William Scott for the Edinburgh Weavers, Carlisle, Autumn Collection, 1962, in the collection of The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The fabric, which was a gift from Edinburgh Weavers, echoes closely the present composition with circles and squares.

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