Gifted to the collection by Sophie Bowness (Granddaughter of Barbara Hepworth) following a conversation at Blackwell Arts and Crafts house during a dinner to celebrate the exhibition ‘Barbara Hepworth’. A passing comment on Scottie Wilson provoked the offer which seemed in the fleeting moment unlikely to actually materialize but the scarf duly arrived a couple of days later.
Scottie Wilson is an interesting figure bridging the outsider art to mainstream art worlds. His work was compulsive and unknowing but he was quite shrewd in how it was marketed being represented by the Mayfair gallery Gimpel Fils. His unwillingness to sell originals suggested the reproduction in domestic and unlimited editions as a viable alternative and the use of the applied process allows for these art works to be placed into the Lawson Park collections. The scarf also represents the Ascher collection of ‘squares’ representing a good cross section of mid century modernist artists many of whom retained a connection with design and craft using their work in textile design and other everyday function products.
As all works in the collection have to be in use the scarf will be worn for exhibitions openings and will be used in the traditional triangle round the head style – this will ensure it is little used as it is rather a special and valuable piece.
Scottie Wilson (1888 – 1972), born Louis Freeman, was a Scottish outsider artist known particularly for his highly detailed style. Starting his artistic career at the age of 44, his work was admired and collected by the likes of Jean Dubuffet and Pablo Picasso and is generally accepted to be in the forefront of 20th century outsider art.
The evolution of his style was notoriously non-existent and, because he did not date most of his works, it is very difficult to place his works in time apart from the few documentary records that exist. He stuck mainly to a narrow range of visual elements: botanical forms, birds and animals, clowns (self-portraits), and 'Greedies' and 'Evils' (malignant personifications). His work can be placed in a purely speculative chronological order by the subtle changes and progressions in his subject matter and style. His earlier pieces are thought to be generally more organic in composition and have less precise cross-hatching and detail. Certain images did become more prevalent, while others were used less frequently, and the level or detail is thought to have increased over time.
Scottie Wilson’s design was printed in 1955, the last year of the Ascher Squares project. At the time Wilson was working and living in London, however he was most likely introduced to Zika Ascher though Parisian connections. Jean Dubuffet first heralded Wilson’s work as representative of his concept of Art Brut. Wilson had no formal artistic training, did not work with dealers, and was against selling his works.
Ascher Scarf began in 1939 when Zika and Lida Ascher, honeymooning in Norway, learned of the German war machine’s conquest of their beloved Czech homeland. That dramatic turn of events resulted in the Aschers’ immediate relocation to London, where they established a modest textile centre, catering to fashion houses, while reinforcing their commitment to artful, exquisite design and print work.
When Zika finished his military service with British forces, his and Lida’s collaborative venture became a thriving enterprise, renowned for its innovative fabric design, technology and highest- quality product. The houses of Dior, Schiaparelli, Cardin and Lanvin were among their well-heeled clients, and the phrase “fabric by Ascher” became de rigueur for denizens of stylish circles.
Amid London’s rampant patriotism and energy following the war, the innovative husband-wife team embraced the already- popular “commemorative” head scarf making it their own by coupling their already- proven textile production with contemporary artists. The results were electrifying. A list of project contributors was a virtual Who’s Who of important mid-20th Century talent, including artists Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Alexander Calder, Andre Derain and others.