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Lot 38
Price Realised: €135,000
Estimate: €150,000 - €200,000
William Scott CBE, RA, 1913-1989 AN ORCHARD OF PEARS NO.1 (1976) Oil on canvas, 20" x 24" (50.7 x 60cm). Provenance: Gimpel Fils Gallery, London; Private Collection, Japan (label verso) Exhibited: Walker Art Gallery, Real Life, Liverp... Read more
Lot 38 - AN ORCHARD OF PEARS by William Scott Lot 38 William Scott AN ORCHARD OF PEARS
Estimate: €150,000 - €200,000
William Scott CBE, RA, 1913-1989
Oil on canvas, 20" x 24" (50.7 x 60cm).

Provenance: Gimpel Fils Gallery, London; Private Collection, Japan (label verso)

Exhibited: Walker Art Gallery, Real Life, Liverpool, 2 June - 6 September, 1977 (label verso); 'The 2nd William Scott Exhibition: The series of An Orchard of Pears', Gallery Kasahara, Osaka, 28 November - 17 December, 1977, illustrated on P.6 and 23 in the exhibition catalogue; 'William Scott Solo Exhibition: The Series of An Orchard of Pears', Tokyo Central Kaigakan, Tokyo, 17-29 January, 1978.

Literature: 'William Scott Catalogue Raisonne of Oil Paintings', registered in the Volume 4 as No.807.

William Scott was born in Scotland, but his Donegal-born father moved the family to Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, in 1924. He showed interest in art from a young age and eventually made his way to London when in 1931 he gained a place at the Royal Academy Schools. Over the following decades his reputation has grown steadily, becoming one of the most sought-after artists of his generation—not only in Ireland and the UK, but worldwide. The list of major public collections from every continent who have acquired Scott's work is impressive, including the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Guggenheim (NY), the Metropolitan Museum (NY), the Hirshhorn (Washington DC), the Tate Gallery (London), the V&A (London) and, closer to home, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Crawford Gallery and the Hugh Lane.

Scott is most commonly identified with still life paintings and although many of his works are highly abstracted, their shapes can be traced back to unpretentious objects from a simple country kitchen. We often find fruit in these arrangements, with pears appearing as early as 1935. It was obviously an important motif for the artist, with his fellow artist TP Flanagan noting that Scott's pears were not just fruit, but were symbols of fruitfulness. It's poignant that towards the end of Scott's life, suffering from Alzheimers Disease, a pear was the subject of his last painting.

The English summer of 1976 was marked by a heatwave that resulted in an abundant harvest in the apple and pear growing area around Scott's Sommerset studio. A flourishing pear tree growing against the studio wall prompted him to do an extensive series of 17 paintings, collectively called 'An Orchard of Pears', throughout the autumn and winter of 1976/77 and were shown at Gallery Kasahara in Osaka, appealing to the Japanese taste for understatement. The painting here was the first of these.

Throughout Scott's career we have a push and pull between representation and abstraction, An Orchard of Pears, No. 1 being a striking example of how abstract thinking underpins all his work. On one level it's an image reflecting the fresh, voluptuous  appeal of the fruit . On another level, it's an elegant, sophisticated arrangement of abstract forms where the artist has organised shapes to maximise visual tension.

The pears are carefully placed, huddled around a central point  (emphasised by the circular plate) while simultaneously drawing your eyes away from it. Notice the way the outward tilt of the pears pulls away from the centre, and how the pear at the right edge further unsettles the composition's stability. Scott is a master of animating empty space by creating subtle visual tension between objects. His genius is that, as a viewer, we're never conscious of this.  However, when we look at the painting there's a satisfying energy, a subtle frisson, a 'rightness' that raises a seemingly simple composition out of the ordinary. These are the elements of a quintessential Scott.

Dr Frances Ruane HRHA, May 2023
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