Defining figure in Irish art for 70 years
Patrick Scott: January 24th, 1921 - February 14th, 2014
Patrick Scott, when a student in 1942
Patrick Scott, who has died aged 93, was a major force in Irish art for more than 70 years. A painter, designer and graphic artist, he was known for work that was elegant and spare.
A pioneer of abstract art in Ireland, he is best known for his Goldpaintings , which involved the application of gold leaf (or occasionally silver or palladium leaf) and tempera on unprimed canvas, he was also a noted designer of tapestries.
His work is distinguished by a number of recurring themes. The circular form that appeared in early paintings continued to engage him to the end of his career, as did the abstraction of natural forms to two-dimensional geometric planes.
From the outset, his paintings were considered daring and original, given the conservative, insular and repressive nature of the Irish art establishment in the 1940s. This was a time when the formal education of artists was based on a rigid and repetitive 19th-century academic curriculum, when landscape was understood as a form of pastoral patriotism and when experiments with new forms of expression were either scoffed at or scorned.
Born in 1921 in Kilbrittain, Co Cork, Scott was educated at Monkstown Park School, Dublin, and St Columba’s College. A woman known to him as Aunt Linda, who lived with his Aunt Janey in London, funded his architectural studies at University College Dublin. On qualifying as an architect in 1945, he joined the practice of his namesake, Michael Scott, where he remained until 1960, when he began painting full time.
As a student, he was required to pass an exam in drawing, and this entailed attending classes at the National College of Art. Because of the unremitting tedium of the classes, Scott and some friends organised their own life-drawing sessions, which were much more dynamic and productive.
From 1941 he was affiliated to the White Stag group of painters, which was founded in London in the 1930s and which moved to Dublin during the second World War.
His work was also shown in the first Irish Exhibition of Living Art , which provided a platform for artists outside the mainstream. He held his first solo exhibition at the White Stag Gallery in 1944.
The exhibitions met with a cool critical reception. Scott’s solo show was dismissed by one reviewer as a series of poor jokes in good frames. A decade later his Deserted Racecourse , shown at the Living Art exhibition, was mocked by Myles na gCopaleen in The Irish Times .
His most important work as an architect was as part of the team involved in the design and construction of Busárus. Another major project was Donnybrook bus station. Many of his projects in the 1950s were co-ordinated through the Signa agency, initiated by Michael Scott and Louis le Brocquy. He was later responsible for every aspect of Iarnród Éireann’s corporate image, down to the livery on the trains.
In 1958 he represented Ireland at the Guggenheim international exhibition, showing work with André Masson, Alberto Giacometti, Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper and Joan Miró. His Woman Carrying Grasses was the only exhibit purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the museum’s first purchase of work by a living Irish artist.