To mark the centenary of the birth of the internationally acclaimed modern painter William Scott (1913-1989), the Tate St Ives, in association with Hepworth Wakefield and Ulster Museum, Belfast, will be featuring an important retrospective exhibition. This will be the first major exhibition of the artist in the UK for over 20 years. Commencing in St Ives on 26 January 2013 and running until 6 May 2013, the exhibition will then tour to Hepworth, Wakefiled from 15 June – 29 September 2013 evolving on the way, before expanding into a survey exhibition at Ulster Museum, Belfast 25 October 2013 – 2 February 2014. In collaboration with the William Scott Estate, the works will be drawn from major collections across the UK and Ireland.
Scott is best known for his abstracted, still lifes, domestic scenes and nudes with powerful brushstrokes and often either muted or vibrant colours. His unique language pushed the boundaries of abstraction and figuration.
He was born in Scotland in February 1913. His family moved to his father’s home town of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland in 1924. In 1928 Scott enrolled at the Belfast School of Art, winning a scholarship to study sculpture and painting at the Royal Academy Schools in London three years later. In 1937, he founded an art school in Pont-Aven, France, with the painter Geoffrey Nelson and continued his involvement with art academies, becoming Senior Painting Master at the Bath Academy of Art in Wiltshire for nearly a decade. Scott developed a relationship with many of the St Ives Group of artists while travelling to Cornwall during this time. In 1951 Scott’s work started shifting towards non-figuration. In 1953, he met New York-based artists Mark Rothko (American, 1903–1970) and Willem de Kooning (American/Dutch, 1904–1997) but soon realized that his work was more European in influence than American Abstract Expressionist.
Scott continued to explore the space between abstraction and figuration, exploring primitive forms and motifs inspired by everyday life. He said of his work: “I am an abstract artist in the sense that I abstract. I cannot be called non-figurative while I am still interested in the modern magic of space, primitive sex forms, the sensual and the erotic, disconcerting contours, the things of life.”
He received honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Art in London, Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College in Dublin, and was elected Royal Academician in 1984. In 1958 he represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale, and in 1961 participated to the São Paulo Biennal, where he won the Sanbra Purchase Prize. In 1972, the Tate Gallery mounted a major retrospective of his art. His work is part of the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Houston Museum of Fine Arts in Texas, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, among others.
This touring exhibition is led by Sara Matson, Curator at Tate St Ives with Chris Stephens, Lead Curator of Modern British Art at Tate Britain, Frances Guy, Head of Exhibitions at Hepworth Wakefield and Anne Stewart, Curator of Fine art at the Ulster Museum.
A new book on William Scott by Sarah Whitfield will be published by Tate to mark the centenary and exhibition. This will be followed by a catalogue of the exhibition in its final form in Belfast produced in collaboration with the William Scott Foundation