Signed and dated lower right 'W. Scott 64'
Watercolor on paper
19 1/2 x 24 1/4 in, 49.5 x 61.5 cm
By the beginning of 1960s, William Scott had established his reputation as one of the most important British artists of the period. Having exhibited widely in the US over the...
By the beginning of 1960s, William Scott had established his reputation as one of the most important British artists of the period. Having exhibited widely in the US over the previous decade, Scott work was regarded as an integral link between European traditions and the new form of American painting sparked by Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, while still retaining his own unique voice.
‘Untitled’ 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. In these works, forms became soft and sensual, floating over the edge of the visible picture plane to evoke a sense of boundless infinity. In ‘Untitled’ these forms, which glide over and under one another, are built up in distinct strokes of translucent watercolour. Scratching heavily into the pigment, Scott works the surface of the painting in a way that reads like handwritten signs across a page.
1964 also marked a pivotal year for Scott, seeing the publication of a monograph on the artist by Alan Bowness (previous director of the Tate Gallery) and inclusion in a major group show organised by the Gulbenkian Foundation at the Tate Gallery, London. In personal and artistic terms, it was also a transitory year 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.
‘Untitled’ was originally acquired by the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York, which exhibited Scott’s work from 1954 and throughout his career. The gallery exhibited other major artists associated with Post-War abstraction from Europe and America from the 1950s, such as the debut US shows of Karel Appel, Sam Francis, Morris Louis and Barbara Hepworth. Martha Jackson’s personal collection, which was gifted to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, notably included Scott’s 'Nile Valley: Morning' 1962. William Scott represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1958 to widespread acclaim and in the same year had his first retrospective at the Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne in Paris. His work is now held in public collections worldwide including MoMA, New York; Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and Tate, London.
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York (no.9381)
Private Collection, New York (thence by descent)