Patrick Scott: From a West Cork farm to cream of art world

Picture: Maurice O'Mahony

Patrick Scott had a roundabout journey to the Biennale in 1960, writes Marc O’Sullivan

I met Patrick Scott in his home in Baggot Lane in Dublin in 2008.

His partner, Eric Pearce, had just edited a book on his work, and Pat was delighted with the publication, simply called Patrick Scott.

Pat told me he had never qualified for a mortgage while he worked as an architect, but he won a $1,000 award when his work was shown in New York in the early 1960s.

“That was £360 in our money,” he says. “The woman who was buying up property along this street showed me two mews houses; one was £1,000, which was beyond my means, and this one was £365, so I bought it.”

Scott spent two years renovating the house, and then bought the mews next door from the same woman about six years later, this time for £2,000. He knocked the two together and lived and worked there for the rest of his life.

Pat was born to a farming family in Kilbrittain, West Cork, in 1921. His three older siblings were sent to boarding school in England at the age of eight, but he stayed at home till he was 12, as he was sickly.

He then boarded in Dublin, at St Columba’s. Art was not on the school curriculum, but his science teacher arranged for a classroom to be given over as a studio, where Scott and some others could work at watercolours while their peers played sports.

Scott’s family fell on hard times in the 1930s, when the cattle trade between Ireland and Britain collap-sed. A family friend, Linda Parbury, made him a gift of £1,000 to fund his studies as an architect at UCD.

Another friend, Michael Scott, gave him work at his architectural practice in the summers and a full-time job when he finished college.

In the 1940s, Scott fell in with the White Stag group, a collective of young artists who moved to Dublin from England hoping to avoid conscription.

“They were a very relaxed bunch, and we had terrific fun,” he says. “I was very young. I was the baby of the group, but they gave me great encouragement.”

By 1960, Pat was sufficiently well-regarded in Ireland that he was sent to represent the country at the Venice Biennale.

Pat had to fund the trip himself, but “the Biennale was great”, he said. “I had a very big room in the main pavilion, with [Romanian-born sculptor Constantin] Brancusi in the next room; that was nice.”

He attended a lavish party thrown by US heiress Peggy Guggenheim. “It went on and on and on. Finally, she had to get the firemen into the garden behind the palazzo, to hose the couples who were in under the bushes.

“Someone unscrewed the phallus from her Marino Marini sculpture of a horse and rider as well. She was quite unperturbed when she was told. She said, ‘That’s all right, I have plenty more of those’.”

Scott showed regularly in Cork. He had a solo exhibition at the Fenton Gallery in 2005, and a joint exhibition with Corban Walker at the same venue in 2007.

‘Patrick Scott: Image Space Light’ runs at the Irish Museum of Modern Art until May 18 and VISUAL Carlow to May 11.


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