William Bell Scott
Pencil, chalk and wash on paper; dated October 1852, labelled
11 x 9 inches
Rossetti sale (1882), lot 1, £6 6s, bought by Fawcett;
Alice Boyd, Penkill Castle;
Evelyn M. Courtney-Boyd;
purchased 1967 by M. Clayton-Stamm;
Sotheby's Belgravia 9 July 1974
Royal Academy of Arts, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, painter and poet, 13 January - 11 March 1973, 244.
Virginia Surtees, Paintings and Drawings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 456
Reproduced in Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism, volume 1, facing p 160
This striking early drawing’s intimate, compressed composition, intense focus and downward tilt of the head vividly conveys the forceful character of Scott, caught before he lost much of his hair through illness. Scott’s friend and patron James Leathart described him as ‘Shrewd, thoughtful and interesting’. A poet, painter, art and literary critic, Scott was older than Rossetti by 17 years; Rossetti initially wrote him a fan letter in 1847, admiring his poem 'The Year of the World', and then elicited contributions from Scott to the short-lived Pre-Raphaelite magazine The Germ.
Over the years, however, familiarity bred contempt; Rossetti nicknamed him ‘Scotus Ignotus’ and lampooned what he saw as his essential weakness of talent with scathing limericks. A drawing by Scott of Rossetti sketching is probably a reciprocal study, inscribed ‘DGR aetat 25’ so dating it to next year, 1853. It was probably made in June that year, whilst Rossetti was staying with Scott in Newcastle. It was engraved for Scott’s notoriously unreliable autobiography published posthumously in 1892, in which he exacted rancorous revenge upon Rossetti (W B Scott, Autobiographical Notes, reproduced opposite p 288).