William STOTT OF OLDHAM
(Oldham 1857 - Belfast 1900)
Signed WILLIAM STOTT OF OLDHAM at the lower right.
Dedicated To John Swan at the lower centre.
245 x 327 mm. (9 5/8 x 12 7/8 in.)
The present sheet is one of a number of pastel seascapes executed by Stott in the 1880s and 1890s. As Roger Brown has noted, ‘At Ravenglass, in the summer of 1884, Stott worked on a series of seascapes and coastal views in pastel, which follow Whistler’s simplicity and economy of expression almost to abstraction. Stott was to produce many such landscapes in the remaining years of his life, almost exclusively on the Cumberland coast. These figureless, subjectless scenes…are a celebration of Stott’s belief in the beauty and symbolism of nature unsullied by the human presence or the limitations of narrative. More and more these small landscapes and seascapes seem to display a form of pantheism, where emotional and spiritual values are expressed through the moods of nature. Like Whistler, Stott was pushing further the boundaries of the apparently limited subject.’
This pastel was presented by the artist to the English animalier painter and sculptor John Macallan Swan RA (1847-1910), with whom Stott is known to have corresponded. Among comparable works is a pastel seascape today in the collection of the Gallery Oldham.
Stott worked in oil and watercolour, and became best known for his atmospheric landscapes. In 1882 he returned to England from France, and soon began adding ‘of Oldham’ to his signature on his paintings and drawings, so as to avoid confusion with the well-known artist Edward Stott. Newly married, he settled in the small harbour village of Ravenglass, in the Lake District in Cumbria, where he was to live and work for the remainder of his career. He maintained close contacts with France, and in December 1882 was invited to exhibit at the inaugural exhibition of the Société Internationale de Peintres at Sculpteurs, alongside Bastien-Lepage, Jean Béraud, Giovanni Boldini, Jean-Charles Cazin, Max Liebermann and Sargent. In London Stott exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery and the Society of British Artists, to which he was elected in 1885, at the invitation of James McNeill Whistler, who was soon to become the President of the Society of British Artists. Before long, Stott came to be regarded, together with Walter Sickert, as one of Whistler’s foremost disciples, and his influence is particularly noticeable in the younger artist’s portraits of the 1880s. By 1887, however, Stott had begun moving away from Whistlerian subjects in favour of themes associated with the Aesthetic Movement, influenced by the example of Edward Burne-Jones and the Symbolist artists in France. That year he exhibited a large painting of The Birth of Venus at the Society of British Artists, for which Whistler’s mistress had posed nude, and which received scathing critical reviews. The result was a scandal and a lasting rift with Whistler, which tainted Stott’s reputation in England for the remaining years of his career.
Nevertheless, Stott’s standing in artistic circles outside England remained high, in particular in France, where he had kept a studio throughout the 1880s and continued to send paintings to the Paris Salons, as well as in Belgium and Germany. In 1889, for example, a retrospective exhibition of sixty oils, pastels and watercolours was held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, while in the same year one of his paintings was shown at the Exposition Universelle and he was also invited to exhibit with the artist group Les XX in Brussels. Yet what he seems to have most wanted, namely acceptance into the Royal Academy and recognition by the artistic establishment in London, was never forthcoming, although a few of his paintings were shown there between 1891 and 1899. Stott died suddenly, at the age of forty-two, on board a ship sailing from Southampton to Belfast, and was largely forgotten within a few years of his early death. Only two articles about the artist were published, in 1889 and 1894, and no monograph devoted to his work appeared until the early years of the 21st century.
Thence by family descent, until 2016
Anonymous sale, London, Bonham’s Knightsbridge, 28 June 2016, lot 95.