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Wilson, "Scottie"


WILSON, "SCOTTIE" (1891–1972), painter. Britain's best known "naive" painter, Wilson was an endearing eccentric. He was born Lewis Freeman to eastern European immigrant parents in the Jewish section of the Gorbals slum district of Glasgow. Some sources state that he was born in London, although "Scottie" refers to his place of birth and the broad accent he retained all his life. His formal education ended at the age of nine, after which he worked with an elder brother as a street-trader in Glasgow. In 1906 he enrolled in the Scottish Rifles and served in India and South Africa. His later work bears some resemblance to Indian bazaar painting, and he regularly incorporated in his works the design of the lotus flower. During World War i he served on the western front, after which he returned to street-trading in London and Scotland. In the early 1930s he immigrated to Canada, working as an itinerant trader between Toronto and Vancouver. It was there that his artistic career started. He often related the tale of finding a beautiful gold pen, with a broad nib, which inspired him to doodle; images and faces seemed to flow from the pen involuntarily and he became obsessed with the results. Dozens of notebooks became filled with elaborate decorative patterns, fantasies based on images of childhood, in which nature was always beautiful and humans were always ugly. He began to use colored inks in delightful images of elaborate gardens, with fountains and resplendent flora and fauna. His favorite artist was Blake, whose mystical innocence is reflected in his work. After World War ii he returned to London, and within a short time considerable interest was shown in his work. In Paris he was greatly encouraged by the artist Jean Dubuffet, who showed a particular interest in the work of children and eccentrics. Exhibitions of his drawings brought Wilson considerable fame; he was commissioned to paint murals for the National Bank of Switzerland, Basle, and dinner services by the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company. His work was acquired by the Tate Gallery, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris and many other public collections. Among the numerous works about Scottie Wilson is a monograph by Mervyn Levy (1966). More have appeared since his death.

add. bibliography:

G. Melly, It's All Writ Out for You: The Life and Work of Scottie Wilson (1986); A.J. Petullo and Katharine Murrell, Scottie Wilson: Peddlar Turned Painter (2004); G.A. Schreiner, Scottie Wilson (1979).

[Charles Samuel Spencer]

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