GORDON SCOTT (1914-2016)


Gordon Scott was trained at the Royal College of Art (1934-38) under Gilbert Spencer, Alan Sorrell and Charles Mahoney. A reserved and highly principled man, during WWII he was a Conscientious Objector. In 1946 he joined the staff of Camberwell School of Art where he remained as a part-time teacher until 1980. He is remembered and revered by generations of Camberwell students, particularly for his lessons in drawing architecture.

Despite a lifelong, dedicated application to painting, Scott was reiticent about exhibiting. He did occasionally contribute to group shows, but his work was not seen in any great quantity until 2006, when, having turned 90, he had an exhibition at the Highgate Gallery. This small group of pictures, all of which come from the artist’s Estate, reflect, even in their diversity (c.1935-c.1995), that very particular and refined Camberwell manner.

The Following was written by the artist and Camberwell teacher Christopher Pemberton (1923-2010) in 2006 for Gordon Scott’s exhibition at the Highgate Gallery

Nowadays one rarely meets a professional painter whose work is not only begun but carried through on the spot: on, so to speak, the battlefield of nature. This is a procedure to which the Impressionists and their great successors have lent an imperishable lustre, but which relatively few painters really work by. As Bonnard says, one has to have the strength to resist nature: most cannot bear her presence for too long. The all-out labourer in the fields needs a special confidence in his language and in his way of working: in a procedure which is something like translating a text, or solving a puzzle, while under the excitement of her actual presence.

Gordons voice is quiet, but his language has this sort of authority. He begins by making spare, almost abstract statements about interval and proportion that make a harmonious pattern on the flat surface of the white canvas. On this he builds with a spare use of paint and a limited range of colour. All this constitutes an approach to nature typical of the Euston Road to whose generation he belongs; although he was never formally connected with them; except perhaps through Camberwell.

Gordon taught part-time at Camberwell from the 1940s to the 1980s. He played an important part in introducing Foundation and Textiles students to the buildings of London.

His Saturday morning classes for Foundation students were famous, prized by those who attended them. You would rendezvous at the Temple church, the St. Pancras hotel, or a Nash terrace, bringing your sketch book. Gordon would tick you off on his list and with much enthusiasm attract your attention to some drawable feature – pillar, pier, doorway – as a means of grasping the whole, firing you with a beautiful drawing of his own.

In his ninetieth year Gordon is still painting, working as usual direct from nature. Buildings always fascinate him, but he is first and foremost a natural painter, sensitive to place and season, catching the characteristic light of Clapham, southern Greece or wherever it might be with his gentle palette and beautiful tones.

His method is to make a preliminary drawing, then settle down with a canvas from his satchel for as long as it takes – two seasons perhaps – in front of the subject, in heat or cold, till it reaches a quiet finality.

We might guess his love of Pissarro: matching as he does, a dogged faith in direct outdoor study with a classical sense of order.

Among the portraits, ex-Camberwell students will note an early study of his fellow student at the Royal College and life long friend Joe Dixon, that man for all seasons without whom Camberwell would not have been the school it was. We are grateful to Gordon for this reminder of him as a student.

Christopher Pemberton, 2006