His travels through Italy – visiting the artistic centres of Florence, Rome and Venice – had reacquainted him with the work of the early Renaissance painters and his exposure to the French post-Impressionists such as Cézanne, Gauguin and Bonnard convinced him of the need to move towards what he described as a ‘primitive realism’. Scott had been similarly struck when he saw the work of Alfred Wallis whilst visiting Cornwall in 1936, and his paintings from the late 1930s show him beginning to absorb these different influences, developing a style that combined an austerity of form with an expressive handling of paint.
Girl Seated at a Table is one of a number of compositions from the period in which Scott incorporated a figure with a still life subject. Discussing two very similar works (Girl at a Table and Girl and Blue Table) from the same year, Alan Bowness describes them as: ‘the portents of Scott’s later style. They evince a strong debt to Cézanne, of course, but certain personal characteristics are already evident – the combination of figure and still life, the care taken over the composition and the exact placing of the objects, the emptiness and simplicity, the richness of the paint surface’ (Alan Bowness, William Scott: Paintings, London, 1964, p.6). The same description is true of the present work which is carefully composed to create a dynamic between the female figure (for whom the artist’s wife Mary was the model), the colourful exuberance of the vase of flowers and muted simplicity of the background. This combination, which balances the actual (of woman and flowers) with the abstract (of the angled table top and empty background), anticipates the pared down aesthetic that he would develop to such acclaim over the following decades.
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