History of SELF-TAUGHT

Anthony J. Petullo and Katherine M. Murrell, Scottie Wilson: Peddler Turned Painter book summary (2004)

Scottie Wilson
Center Fish Circle on Black, c. 1965
colored ink on paper

Scottie Wilson (1891–1972) was a self-taught artist who achieved recognition from both the art world and the popular media. Nevertheless, he remained an outsider who lived modestly and would sell his pictures to people he met on the street for a fraction of what they sold for in galleries. The child of Eastern European émigrés, Scottie (born Lewis Freeman) grew up in the poor, predominantly Jewish Gorbals section of Glasgow. He left school at the age of nine, worked at a number of odd jobs, and after a period in the military (which included serving on the Western Front during World War I), established himself in London as a dealer in secondhand goods.

In the 1930s Scottie moved to Canada, and it was there, in the back room of his shop, that he discovered his vocation as an artist. Once he began drawing, he never stopped, and he eventually began to show his work throughout Canada. Scottie’s works are typically rendered in a distinctive hatching technique, and early pieces are characterized by mysterious faces termed "evils and greedies," while his later drawings and paintings are surprisingly idyllic, dominated by vividly colored flora and fauna.

In 1945 Scottie returned to London, where he initially exhibited with the Surrealists, who saw affinities between his inventive imagery and their own art. He later traveled to France to meet artists Jean Dubuffet and Pablo Picasso, who both acquired examples of his work, and in the 1960s he received commissions to design patterns for ceramics and textiles. Despite his successes, Scottie remained aloof from the cultural establishment, viewing his utopian images as providing an alternative to "this wicked world."

Scottie Wilson: Peddler Turned Painter tells the fascinating story of this complex and enigmatic figure, presenting many new biographical details, based on extensive research, and tracing the evolution of his art. The color plates illustrate works in various media spanning the length of Scottie’s career, and this volume includes a selection of remarkable black-and-white portraits of the artist.

Excerpt source:
Anthony J. Petullo and Katherine M. Murrell, Scottie Wilson: Peddler Turned Painter (Milwaukee: Petullo Publishing, 2004)

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