Lot 1
  • 1

William Scott, R.A.

25,000 - 35,000 GBP
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  • William Scott, R.A.
  • Flowers on a Blue Cloth
  • signed; titled and dated 1938 on Artist's label attached to the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 41 by 51cm.; 16¼ by 20in.


Leger Galleries, London
Sale, Sotheby's London, 1st May 1968, lot 107
J.R. Capstick-Dale
Sale, Sotheby's London, 7th April 1971, lot 116
Private Collection, United Kingdom
Sale, Sotheby's London, 15th May 1985, lot 182, where acquired by Lord & Lady Attenborough 


London, Leger Galleries, Paintings by William Scott, 9th - 30th September 1942, cat. no.4 or 20 (as Flowers on a Blue Cloth No.1 or No.2).


Sarah Whitfield (ed.), William Scott: Catalogue Raisonné of Oil Paintings, Vol. I 1913-1951, Thames & Hudson, London, 2013, cat. no.32, illustrated p.81.


Original canvas. The canvas appears sound. There are some pinholes apparent at all four corners and along the lower horizontal edge, which appear to be in keeping with the artist's technique. There is a very small indentation to the canvas towards the upper left vertical edge. There are stretcher lines apparent around the edges of the canvas and the canvas undulates very slightly. There is some reticulation apparent to the flowers on the left side of the composition. There are one or two fine lines of craquelure apparent to the orange flower on the right and to several spots of green pigment of the flowers, including one tiny line which is lifting. There is a light layer of surface dirt to the work. Subject to the above the work appears to be in very good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals no obvious signs of fluorescence or retouching. The work is presented in a painted wooden frame, with a dark blue fabric and wooden slip. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In May 1937, Scott married fellow artist and sculptor Mary Lucas and in December that year, they left England for the Continent where the cost of living was low and artistic inspiration in wholesome supply. They travelled through Italy and France, experiencing Renaissance masters such as Giotto at first hand alongside leaders of the European avant-garde and were particularly struck by Manet, Cézanne, Bonnard and Matisse: ‘my interest in still life painting grew directly out of looking at Cézanne. I wanted to look at Cézanne not through cubist eyes, but rather through the eyes of Chardin…’ (The Artist, quoted in William Scott (exh.cat.), Tate, London, May 1972, p.66). The new experiences stimulated an innovative departure from his rigorous Royal Academy training and he forged a dynamic and original style exemplified by the subtle stylisation and reduction of form evident in the present work. Moreover, in Pont-Aven, he cannot have failed to have noticed the legacy of Gauguin and his synthetist experimentations with colour and tone and he even met two of Gauguin’s followers Emile Bernard and Maurice Denis: ‘it was in Pont-Aven that I felt I started to discover what I needed…’ (The Artist, ibid, p.67). Flowers on a Blue Cloth belongs to a rare group of works painted there and during the course of 1939, William and Mary set up a small summer school in the town with Geoffrey Nelson, a Slade trained artist, but were forced back to England by the onset of the Second World War.

The acute angle of the blue tablecloth is prescient of Scott’s move to abstraction during the 1950s when he flattened the table top completely and reduced its form to a simple line across the horizon. The choice of subject is also important – the still life remained a central tenet of his artistic vocabulary throughout his life although the abundant flowers and rustic Breton vase in the present work are rather more exotic than the simple pots and pans that populate his work on return to Britain. The intense blue hues closely recall other paintings from the period such as Girl at a Blue Table (Leicestershire County Council) where the debt to Cézanne’s palette is clear. Scott was given his first solo exhibition at the Leger Galleries in London in 1942 and it is significant that he chose to include the present work.