Description & Technical information

From 1883 onwards William Stott began working in pastel, ‘almost exclusively for plein-air landscape work and in preliminary sketches for exhibition pictures - and he proved to be a superb pastellist.’, as one scholar has noted. He was influenced by the pastel landscapes of Edgar Degas, whom he may have met around this time, and Whistler, who had recently returned from Venice with a large number of pastel views which were exhibited in London. While Stott sometimes used his pastel sketches as studies for the background of his paintings, he also regarded them as fully-fledged works of art and often exhibited them.

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.

Date:  1883
Period:  19th century
Medium: Pastel on board
Signature: Signed WILLIAM STOTT OF OLDHAM at the lower right.
Dedicated To John Swan at the lower centre.

Dimensions: 245 x 327 cm (96¹/₂ x 128³/₄ inches)
Provenance: Given by the artist to John Macallan Swan, London
Thence by family descent, until 2016
Anonymous sale, London, Bonham’s Knightsbridge, 28 June 2016, lot 95.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints