William Scott comes to market for first time in decades

Sotheby’s expert makes comparison with Rothko and DeKooning ahead of auction

William Scott, Berlin Blues 2 and Dark Earth Scheme.

William Scott, Berlin Blues 2 and Dark Earth Scheme.

 

Two paintings by William Scott are to be sold at auction for the first time at Sotheby’s in London. Both have been in family collections since they were first acquired by major Irish collectors.

Berlin Blues 2 was bought by Ronald Tallon, one of the most influential Irish architects of the 20th century, who was also responsible for purchasing for many of Ireland’s best known corporate art collections such as Bank of Ireland’s, Carrolls and A&L Goodbody’s.

William Scott, Dark Earth Scheme
William Scott, Dark Earth Scheme.

Dark Earth Scheme was bought by John O’Driscoll, one of Ireland’s most significant collectors of international modernism. The estimates are £350,000–£450,000 and £200,000–£300,000 respectively.

After catching a glimpse of Berlin Blues 2 hanging in the Scotts’ home in London – it was painted in 1965 – Tallon persuaded Scott’s wife Mary to part with it. He had already bought the painting’s sister work, Berlin Blues I, for the Bank of Ireland collection. It was later donated to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

Dark Earth Tones was acquired by John O’Driscoll in 1975, the year after it was painted. It hung in his home alongside works by Edgar Degas, Joan Mitchell, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein and Alberto Giacometti, as well as Scott’s friend Patrick Heron.

 Simon Hucker, Sotheby’s senior specialist in modern and post-war British art, says the two Scott canvases are hugely significant works. 

“When you look at the power and the colour in pictures like these two, it’s clear that Scott really is in command of what he’s doing. They can be shown in the same space as a Rothko or a De Kooning and hold their own.  And whilst they’re not 20ft by 10ft in the way that some American Expressionist paintings can be, they’re big enough to envelop you – so you can experience them almost as an environment around you.”

William Scott, Berlin Blues 2.
William Scott, Berlin Blues 2.

Scott himself selected Berlin Blues 2 as the basis for a five-pence stamp design he created for the Irish postal service in 1973. Dark Earth Scheme encapsulates his poetic sense of space, its simplified forms arranged in perfect harmony on a backdrop of rich, ochre tones.

William Scott’s five-cent postage stamps from 1973  
William Scott’s five-cent postage stamps from 1973.  

“His work in the 1940s and 1950s is deliberately dark greys, dirty greens and lemony yellows,” says Simon Hucker. “So that when he gets on to brighter, stronger colours in the 1960s, he just knows how to handle it. These paintings are colourful, but restrained at the same time. That orange and black in Dark Earth Scheme is a subtle combination. And there’s an iridescence to the blue in Berlin Blues 2. He has used the light blue colour around the edges of the darker blue, so the blurred edges shimmer.”

Last exhibited at IMMA in 2000, Berlin Blues 2 will go on view to the public as part of Sotheby’s Modern British Week from Friday June 8th. On Sunday June 10th at 2pm, Simon Hucker will host a public interview with the artist’s son, Robert Scott. The Modern and Post-War British Art Evening Sale is on Monday June 12th. For further details see sothebys.com

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