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Lot 36
Result: Not Sold
Estimate: €60,000 - €90,000
William Scott CBE, RA, 1913-1989 PORTRAIT OF MARY SCOTT, c.1938-39 Oil on canvas, 32" x 25 1/2" (81 x 65cm). Provenance: Acquired from the artist by Julia Correlleau (Hôtel de la Poste, Pont-Aven) and then by descent to the previous own... Read more
Lot 36 - PORTRAIT OF MARY SCOTT by William Scott Lot 36 William Scott PORTRAIT OF MARY SCOTT
Estimate: €60,000 - €90,000
William Scott CBE, RA, 1913-1989
Oil on canvas, 32" x 25 1/2" (81 x 65cm).

Provenance: Acquired from the artist by Julia Correlleau (Hôtel de la Poste, Pont-Aven) and then by descent to the previous owner; 

Artcurial, Paris, April 2023, lot 209.
Literature:  A.Cariou, Les Peintres de Pont-Aven, Editions Ouest-France, Rennes, 1994, reproduced in colour p. 131.

S. Whitfield, William Scott: Catalogue Raisonne of Oil Paintings 1969-1989, vol. 4, London, 2013, n°A193, reproduced in colour p.387 (title Portrait of Mary Scott).

William Scott (1913-1989) is regarded as one of the greatest Irish painters of the post-war period, his works produced over six decades finding their way into major collections the world over. Two rare paintings from c.1938-39, which are in this sale, show the strength that was evident in his work from the start.

Raised in Northern Ireland, Scott studied at the Belfast College of Art  and then, from 1931, at the Royal Academy Schools in London. He married his fellow art student Mary Lucas in 1937, after which they left England, spending two years abroad in Italy and France, when both these pictures were painted. In 1938 the Scotts went to Pont Aven, Brittany, where they opened a summer painting school in a studio in the Hôtel de la Poste, returning there again the following summer. The hotel, run by Julia Correlleau, attracted many artists and writers over the years. However, when World War II broke out in August 1939, the Scotts fled France for Britain, leaving many of their paintings in the care of the innkeeper, Julia Correlleau.  But, on their return to Pont Aven in 1946, they were unable to retrieve their pre-war work as it had been either lost or confiscated during the Occupation. The two works now on offer have come by direct descent from Julia Correleau, so it's likely that these important surviving paintings were either gifts to Julia, who was their friend, or possibly payment in lieu of accommodation or studio rental between 1938 and 1939.

The time in Pont Aven was important in defining Scott's future direction. On the continent there was the fashionable pull of both Surrealism and Cubism, neither of which sat well with him. He was drawn more to artists like Derain, Modigliani, Cezanne and, primarily, Matisse, to something he identified as a pared back, primitive realism. He was drawn to the early Italian 'primitives" like Cimabue and Giotto, to folk and tribal art, and to artists like Gauguin, who embraced primitive tendencies. Removed from the mainstream in Paris, Scott painted directly from life with a simplicity and purity that was to define all his future work.

When many French artists were concentrating on landscapes, especially around Pont Aven, William Scott preferred still life and figure painting, which he did from life, rather than from sketches or memory. During his time there he sometimes used other sitters (as he did once using a model who had posed for Gauguin) but, as in this painting, he most frequently turned to his wife Mary as his subject. Looking at this  painting one can see how Scott aspired to an art that took traditional subjects and interpreted them with an unselfconscious modesty.  He avoids flaunting a flashy technique in favour of directness, simplicity and sincerity.

Portrait of Mary Scott demonstrates Scott's gentleness of execution. The painting is held together within a narrow range of subtle tones that are in a kind of visual dialogue with the colour blue. This is an early sign of things to come as blue became the colour we've come to associate with Scott's most iconic works. In this painting we find subtle touches of it everywhere, becoming more prominent in the outlines of shapes and in shadows on skin and cloth, culminating in the rich blue around the chair. This blue aura envelopes the figure, concentrating our attention on her. She seems soft and vulnerable, her flesh contrasting with the hard angular structures around her. Like the Scott that was to evolve over the following decades, we find an artist here who looks at what's around him, pares away extraneous details and then uses what remains as a means of exploring space, form and colour.

Dr Frances Ruane HRHA, May 2023
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