Fish (1982) signed and dated 'W SCOTT/82' (verso) oil on canvas 40.5 x 50.8 cm. (16 x 20 in.) This work is registered in the William Scott Archive as number 2154
PROVENANCE: Gifted by the artist to The Royal Academy of Arts Trust as part of a fundraising appeal in the summer of 1982, where purchased by the present owner
EXHIBITED: London, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer 1982
In 1980, Scott travelled to Osaka, Japan, to oversee the hanging of his solo exhibition at the Gallery Kasahara. He respected the Japanese appreciation for understatement and the trip was to revive his purist inclinations. On return home, he began to revisit a favoured theme - fish. But these were different to what had gone before, now his fish became "a lively, fresh and pushy creature" (Norbert Lynton, William Scott, Thames & Hudson, London 2004, p.336).
This sense of personality is perfectly exemplified in the present lot. Painted two years after his Osaka show, Fish (1982) appears to almost be smiling at us. The artist has succeeded here in injecting a sense of humour and curiosity that engages the viewer, in a way the earlier fish did not. Rendered in a peaceful palette of white, beige and black, there is poetry in its simplicity which is closely repeated in Single Fish with Shadow 1983 (Private Collection) from the following year. In this version, the fish faces the opposite direction but offers the same expressive character.
William Scott's sons "confirm that he liked catching fish as well as eating them, notably mackerel and sardines. On camping holidays in Cornwall and Brittany they recall him frying the fish, with the heads left on in the French manner" (Loc.Cit).