Scotland, 1888 - 1972
Collected by Picasso, André Breton and Jean Dubuffet, Scottie Wilson was a major figure in twentieth-century art. One of five children, he was born in Glasgow in 1888. As a child, he was fond of trees and animals, especially birds. When he was ten years old and still illiterate, Wilson sold newspapers, and at the age of sixteen he joined the army, serving in Asia and South Africa. Back in Great Britain, Wilson made a living in London as an itinerant engraver. In 1928 he migrated to Canada, where he opened a second-hand shop in Toronto and collected fountain pens. It was with one such pen—nicknamed “Bulldog”—that one day, out of boredom, Wilson made his first drawing. He was forty years old. From that time on his creative output grew steadily. His early drawings, dark and disturbing, gave way gradually to a joyous universe, colourful and calm, that represents ghosts, trees, totems, castles, fountains and animals. Yet all these flora and fauna only existed for the artist once each drawing had been completed. “They are too beautiful for this earth”, said Wilson. After the Second World War, and again back in London, Wilson showed his drawings at exhibitions he himself organized, often in unusual settings.