Head of a Girl signed 'W Scott' (upper right) oil on canvas 30.5 x 25.5 cm. (12 x 10 in.) William Scott archive number 16 Painted in 1946
Provenance: with The Leicester Galleries, London, where purchased by Eric Blom Thence by descent
Exhibited: London, The Leicester Galleries, Artists of Fame and Promise, July-August 1947, no.137 Possibly, London, The Leicester Galleries, The Recent Paintings of William Scott, October 1948, cat.no.4 Bristol, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Contemporary British Painting, 11 May-8 June 1951, no.62 (This was a Festival of Britain Exhibition by arrangement with the Fine Arts Council of Great Britain)
Literature: Alan Bowness (Ed.), William Scott: Paintings, London, Lund Humphries, 1964, cat.no.16 (ill.b&w) Norbert Lynton, William Scott, Thames and Hudson, London, 2004, no.33, p.67 (ill.b&w)
The present work depicts the artist's wife, Mary. Painted in 1946, Norbert Lynton comments that 'In spite of the simplification WS gave it the face is almost a mask the picture expresses great intimacy.' (Norbert Lynton, William Scott, Thames and Hudson, London, 2004, p.68)
William Scott and Mary Lucas married on 19th May 1937. The couple had met at the Royal Academy Schools where both were students. Scott had enrolled on the sculpture course and transferred to painting in 1934 after two and half years. Mary entered the academy to study sculpture just after Scott had transferred courses.
Mary came from an affluent background. Her father was a self-made man, running a successful business as a paint manufacturer, while her mother was a painter herself and came from a more established family. She grew up in Bristol in a house run by servants. In contrast, William came from a more modest background. He was born in Greenock, with an Irish father and a Scottish mother. His childhood was spent in Enniskillen where his father was a house and sign painter.
The artistic talents of both William Scott and Mary were recognised at the Royal Academy. Both were awarded the Leverhulme travelling scholarship. The scholarships enabled the couple, along with Mary's allowance, to travel to Italy in 1937, where they visited Florence, Venice and Rome. In 1938 the couple continued their travels to France where they settled in Pont Aven. Here they set up a painting school along with Geoffrey Nelson.
The Scotts left France in 1939, just five days before England declared war on Germany, and returned to England before going to Dublin. It was here that their first son, Robert, was born on 9th January 1940. The following month, they returned to London where they lived in Earls Court. In July, the decision was made to send their son Robert to live with Mary's sister, Marguerite, who was emigrating to the US. With the onslaught of the Blitz in August 1940, the Scotts decided to leave London, and found a house in Hallatrow, Somerset. Scott took up a post teaching at the Bath Academy of Art and soon the couple's second son, James, was born on 9th July 1941. It is incredible to think that against the background of all this turmoil that Scott was able to get together work for his first one-man exhibition, which was held at the Leger Gallery in 1942.
Shortly after this success, Scott volunteered for the Army. He was accepted into the Royal Engineers and served until 1946, the year of the present work. Throughout his time spent serving in the Army, Scott only managed one oil painting. However it seems that as soon as he was demobilised in the Spring of 1946, he quickly got back into gear. Scott returned to teaching at the Bath Academy, which was now based at Corsham Court. Mary was also a part-time teacher of sculpture and drawing at the academy.
The present work seems to show the ease with which Scott returned to painting with oil that year.
Sarah Whitfield is currently preparing the Catalogue Raisonné of works in oil by William Scott. The William Scott Foundation would like to hear from owners of any work by the artist so that these can be included in this comprehensive catalogue or in future projected catalogues. Please write to Sarah Whitfield c/o Bonhams, 20th Century British Art Department, 101 New Bond Street, London, W1S 1SR.