SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds
SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds

SCOTTIE WILSON | Face with birds

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Robert "Scottie" Wilson
1891 Glasgow - 1972 London

Scottie Wilson was born Louis Freeman and was a Scottish Art Brut artist. He is known for his detailed style. He began his artistic career at the age of 44. His works were admired and collected by Jean Dubuffet and Pablo Picasso. He is counted among the first line of artists of Art Brut of the 20th century.

His works can be found at MoMA, New York, and Tate, London, among others. He can also be found in numerous Art Brut collections worldwide, such as the Collection Eternod & Mermod, Switzerland, and the Audrey B. Heckler Collection, USA. Scottie Wilson is represented in the context of the 921-work "Donation d'Art Brut de Bruno Decharme" at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, since 2021.

"As I work, I can see what's happening and I can imagine what's supposed to happen. I can make out the best as I finish my paintings with the pen. As I make strokes; hundreds and thousands of strokes." Scottie Wilson

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 of detail is thought to have increased over time.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, at 24 Ropework Lane in what is now the Merchant City area. His father Julius worked as a fur skin dresser (furrier) who married his wife Esther in Riga on 13 May 1878. He had 3 older brothers (Philip, Samuel & Morris), 2 older sisters (Sarah and Leah), 4 younger brothers (Charles/Levi, Joseph, David, Joseph - born after the first Joseph died) and 2 younger sisters (Dora and Betsy). Robert “Scottie” Wilson (Louis Freeman) dropped out of school at the age of 8 to help subsidise his family's meagre income by, amongst other things, selling newspapers on the street. In 1906 he enlisted with the Scottish Rifles and subsequently served in India and South Africa. He bought himself out in 1911 but rejoined in 1914 during World War I to fight on the Western Front. At the end of the war he emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he owned and operated a second-hand shop.

At the age of 44 he began doodling with one of the fountain pens that he collected for resale in his shop and discovered his passion for art.

In his own words: "I’m listening to classical music one day – Mendelssohn – when all of a sudden I dipped the bulldog pen into a bottle of ink and started drawing – doodling I suppose you’d call it – on the cardboard tabletop. I don’t know why. I just did. In a couple of days – I worked almost ceaselessly – the whole of the tabletop was covered with little faces and designs. The pen seemed to make me draw, and them images, the faces and designs just flowed out. I couldn’t stop – I’ve never stopped since that day."

It was there that he began his work, embodying a personal code of morality wherein characters called "evils and greedies" are juxtaposed with naturalistic symbols of goodness and truth. The first dealer to encounter Wilson’s work was a Canadian, Douglas Duncan, who displayed them in various gallery shows. While Wilson did not want to part with his drawings, he found the idea of an artistic career preferable to shopkeeping and attempted to solve the problem of raising money by staging travelling shows for viewing only and charging modest entrance fees.

After receiving recognition for his work in Toronto, he abruptly went to London in 1945 and continued to exhibit his drawings for modest fees while maintaining a deep distrust of dealers. A few months after his arrival he was persuaded by dealers to show in galleries, and had a solo exhibition at the Arcade Gallery in London, shown concurrently with other works by such 20th-century artists as Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, amongst others. Wilson's rejection of commercialism was unabated, however, and he continued to sell his work on the street for a minute fraction of the prices the gallery owners were asking. He said of the working-class customers he attracted, "They're the intellect, you know".

Wilson spent his remaining years in Kilburn, an area of northwest London, working alone in his small lodgings. He sold his drawings at markets and exhibited them in unusual places such as a movie theater or a caravan. In the early 1950s, he travelled to France at the persuasion of artist and outsider art fanatic Jean Dubuffet. There Wilson was met by not only Dubuffet, but also by Pablo Picasso; both were fans and owners of Wilson's work. 

In the recollection of art critic Bill Hopkins, who was a friend of Wilson's and accompanied him on this trip, this meeting presents itself thus: "When we arrived, not only was Dubuffet waiting, Pablo Picasso was with him. Both owned a few of Scottie’s pieces, and Picasso had come to see – and perhaps buy – some more. I vividly remember both artists eagerly admiring Scottie’s work, squabbling in their fierce, theatrical, Gallic voices over who would buy which piece."

In the 1960s, Wilson began to create paintings on plates and was subsequently commissioned by Royal Worcester and had designed a series of dinnerware, which was produced until 1965. The pattern was based on totem poles and imagery from North America. His picture ‘Bird Song’ was chosen as a design for the 1970 UNICEF Christmas Card. He died in 1972 from cancer.

Though he always complained of poverty, Wilson was discovered at the time of his death to have secreted a suitcase full of money under his bed and large sums in various bank accounts.



Coloured pencil drawing on cardboard


>> Framing on request: Production approx. 2 weeks | Surcharge €50

Real wood frame - custom made
Mirogard glass, UV 100, glare-free
FSC-certified timber, 
100% Made in Germany, 100% Organic
Size 42 x 42 cm


Provenance | Gallery Great Britain, Private Collection Switzerland, Auctioneers Switzerland, Auctioneers Germany, Private Collection Germany





Differential taxation according to § 25a UStG. No taxes included. | Differenzbesteuerung nach § 25a UStG. Kunstgegenstände und Sammlungsstücke, Sonderregelung.

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