UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

William Bell Scott, 1811-1890

Nationality: Scottish
Date of Birth: 1811.09.12
Place of Birth: St Leonard's, Edinburgh
Date of Death: 1890.11.22
Place of Death: Penkill Castle, Ayrshire

Identity:

William Bell Scott, a Scottish history painter, graver and poet, was the son of Robert Scott, an Edinburgh engraver. He was one of seven children. His brother David Scott was also a painter. W. B. Scott married Letitia Margaret Norquoy in 1843.

Life:

William Bell Scott was a painter on the periphery of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. During this time he lived in Newcastle where he was was head of the Government School of Design. Of the Pre-Raphaelite group he was particularly friendly with Dante Gabriel Rossetti who as a young man had admired his poetry. Through Bell, Rossetti was introduced to Alice Boyd, owner of Penkill Castle, Ayrshire, with whom Bell and his wife from 1860 spent a large part of each year. Scott was also very close to Christina Rossetti, with whom it has been claimed he had an affair.

Scott was in correspondence with Whistler from 1864 to 1869. He admired Wapping (YMSM 35), describing it as having 'extraordinary power and distinctness at a distance'. However, he was not prepared to pay the £250 which Whistler asked for it in February 1864. Whistler's unusually naturalistic Crepuscule in Opal: Trouville (YMSM 67) has been compared to Scott's studies of the Northumberland coast.

Scott was elected a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club on 10 Dec 1866, and in 1867 was present at the meeting called concerning the expulsion of Whistler following his public quarrel with Seymour Haden. He described it as a 'painful scene', but declared in a letter to James Leathart that he had 'long felt Whistler to be a disreputable man'.

Bibliography:

Altdorfer, Albrecht, The Fall of Man, intro. by W. B. Scott, London, 1876; Scott, W. B., William Blake: Etchings from his Works, London, 1878; Scott, W. B., The Little Masters, London, 1881; Minto, W. (ed.), Autobiographical Notes of the Life of William Bell Scott, 2 vols, London, 1892; Irwin, Francina, 'William Bell Scott', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 24 April 2002).