William Scott was born in Greenock, Scotland in 1913 but moved to Co. Fermanagh as a child. He studied at Belfast College of Art from 1928, and from 1931 to 1935 at the Royal Academy Schools in London.
He served in the British Army from 1942 to 1946 and taught at Bather Academy of Art from 1946 to 56. He died in Somerset in 1989.
Scott's early work concentrated on still-lifes of pots and saucepans, eggs, fishes and bottles placed on a bare kitchen table: objects that provided contrasting shapes that could be arranged against simple backgrounds. His work vascillated between figuration and abstraction, and in the late 1960s he reintroduced everyday objects (frying pans, saucepans, fruit), juxtaposing them with purely abstract forms; the picture space was kept deliberately flat and the forms carefully spaced in floating rows.
In both paintings and prints he sometimes produced variations of almost identical arrangements of forms in completely different colours, continuing to use still-life subjects as the starting point for the study of the formal relationships betwen shapes.
William Scott represented Britain at the 1958 Venice Biennale and showed his work with the Hanover Gallery, London; Martha Jackson in New York, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France; and the Dawson Gallery, Dublin; among others.
Retrospectives of his work have been held at the Tate, London (1972); the Ulster Museum, Belfast, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin and National Galleries of Scotland (1986); IMMA, Dublin (1998) and the Jerwood Gallery (2013).