By the beginning of 1960s, William Scott was already widely regarded as one of the most important British artists of the period. Throughout the 50s he had exhibited widely in the US, and was considered an integral link between European traditions and the new form of colour field abstract American painting spearheaded by Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Hans Hofmann.
‘Yellow Circle (II)’, 1964 is filled with the characteristic painterly qualities of Scott’s work from this period, which placed emphasis on surface texture in contrast to the more minimal compositions of the 1950s. During this period, forms became soft and sensual, floating over the edge of the visible picture plane to evoke a sense of boundless infinity, accentuated in the present work by the fragile nature of the chalk and pastel.
In personal and artistic terms, 1964 proved to be critically important as Scott embarked on a yearlong residency with the Ford Foundation in West Germany. This resulted in the seminal ‘Berlin Blues’ series of paintings, a major example of which, ‘Berlin Blues 4’ (1965), can now be found in the Tate collection. The solemn and muted appearance of these paintings, in flattened areas of pure colour against a bare background, mark a shift in Scott’s visual language. In relation to this series, ‘Untitled’ therefore becomes a swan song for the more complex and expressive works of Scott’s earlier period.
His work is held in numerous public collections worldwide including MoMA, New York; Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and Tate, London.