During the 'lonely and frustrating period when his work was interrupted and he felt completly cut off from France' whilst serving in the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, Scott only painted watercolours and he was keen to paint in oils again as soon as he could.
Ronald Alley comments, 'When he was demobilised in the spring of 1946, he returned immediately to Hallatrow [in Somerset] and to teaching at Bath Academy (now moved to Corsham Court), where he was appointed Senior Painting Master. In the summer he and his wife returned to Pont Aven, partly to recover paintings and possessions which he had left there but also to try to re-establish his painting thoughts again. However, the paintings he had left behind had disappeared ... nevertheless, this visit to Pont Aven, which he combined with a brief stay in Paris, helped him to shake off his neo-romantic tendencies and to pick up again where he had left off. His paintings done in Brittany in 1946 are deliberately close in style to his pre-war work.
The type of French painting which especially attracted him, with which he felt the closest affinity, was the still life tradition of Chardin, Cézanne and Braque. Though he still painted figures from time to time, he concentrated now on still life arrangments of pots and saucepans, eggs, fishes and bottles on a bare kitchen table. This choice of subject matter was conditioned to some extent by his early environment, by memories of his childhood, but there was no kind of social comment intended; indeed the effect was usually very elegant. That Scott chose kitchen utensils as the theme for so many of his pictures was not due to any special liking for these objects, but precisely because he found them completely uninteresting in themselves. They were merely the elements for making his pictures, providing a contrast of forms without any distracting associations. What really concerned him was the relationship of a few simple shapes, their arrangement and spacing, against the plastic emptiness of the backgrounds.
The paint was applied thinly, but with sensuous creamy richness, the colours were clear and tonally precise, the drawing crisp, the overall effect gleaming and immaculate. Already there existed a contrast between the Spartan austerity of the objects depicted and the richness of the qualities of paint and colour. Though this intense concern with the problems of picture making-with 'pure painting' - belonged rather to the French than to the English tradition, one can understand his admiration for such a painting as Sir William Nicholson's 'Mushrooms' in the Tate Gallery - a picture which is naturalistic, well designed and beautifully painted' (see R. Alley, exhibition catalogue, William Scott, Belfast, Ulster Museum, 1986, pp. 14-5).
The present composition, which was originally bought from the Leicester Galleries by (Sir) Alec Guinness, (C.H., C.B.E. 1914-2000) is a very rare oil still life composition dating from 1947. Such works from this period set down very important foundations for Scott's mature work and clarified the idiom that he was to devlop for much of the following three decades.
Sarah Whitfield is currently preparing the Catalogue Raisonné of works in oil by William Scott. The William Scott Foundation would like to hear from owners of any work by the artist so that these can be included in this comprehensive catalogue or in future projected catalogues. Please write to Sarah Whitfield c/o Christie's, 20th Century British Art Department, 8 King Street, London, SW1Y 6QT.