William Scott's Celtic-tinged Breton Landscape goes home to his birthplace in Greenock

By Richard Moss | 17 February 2015

A Celtic-influenced Breton landscape by William Scott goes 'home' courtesy of the artist's sons

an oil painting of four white walled houses dotted about a plain landscape of fields and dry stone walls
William Scott, CBE, RA (1913-1989) [Breton Landscape], 1938 or 1939 Oil on canvas© Estate of William Scott 2015
With its isolated white walled houses and a landscape of fields and dry stone walls beneath a slab of grey sky, the McLean Museum and Art Gallery’s latest acquisition could be a Scottish landscape as much as a Breton one.

But Breton Landscape dates to William Scott’s time in Brittany before the war, when the painter was honing his technique of flattening out the picture plane with simple forms and a style that owed as much to Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson as it did to abstraction.

The painting was recently given to the museum in Greenock by the William Scott Foundation, and it will now join a strong collection of British art that takes in everything from 18th landscapes to the Scottish colourists.

It’s tempting to put Scott’s Celtic tinged vision of Brittany down to a childhood in Greenock and Northern Ireland, which would have been filled with similar images of Crofter’s cottages.  

It was evidently a personal favourite of Scott, who went on to become one of the most important British painters of the post-war period. He brought the work back with him from France, and it remained with the artist until his death in 1989.

In 2013 it was included in the major touring exhibition held at Tate St Ives, the Hepworth Wakefield and the Ulster Museum in Belfast, to mark the centenary of Scott’s birth.

Handing over the painting, the artist’s sons, James and Robert who are directors of the William Scott Foundation, acknowledged their family’s “strong Celtic ties".

"Our grandmother was born in Glasgow and our grandfather in Northern Ireland" they said.

“Our father, who would have been 102 yesterday (February 15 2015), worked his way from Greenock to exhibit internationally, with major works in important museums.

"We feel that it is only right that the McLean Museum and Art Gallery should have a work by our father in its collection as a tribute to the town where he was born.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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