Today marks the 100th birthday of the Irish artist Patrick Scott.
Pat Scott was a shy and quiet man who expressed proudly and passionately in his art. I first met him when he was already an old man, his reputation assured but his passion for living still burning. We were – among many – at a house party in the 1990s so he must have been in his late seventies at the time. He seemed much younger. I remember being shocked to discover that this gentle, older man was one of Ireland’s most famous modern artists.
Pat Scott was born in Co. Cork on 24 January 1921 and studied architecture at UCD, graduating as World War II came to a close. After a time working as an architect (including working on the interiors of Busáras), he devoted himself to art in 1960, when he won the Guggenheim Award and represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale.
He worked across various media, including sculpture and textiles, but is best known for his abstract paintings. He loved working with gold leaf and his most recognisable works feature large sun-disks of gold against plain, textured canvas.
His paintings are in the collections of many important modern art collections, including the Museum of Modern Art New York and I am lucky enough to have some of his work on my own walls. In July, 2007, Scott, who was a founding member of Aosdána, was conferred with the title of Saoi, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon an Irish artist.
Pat was a friend of Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards, whom he met through his life-long partner, the actor Pat McLarnon. While openly gay, Pat always remained private about his relationship with McLarnon and would refer to him as “a great friend”. They shared a home together on Baggot Lane, where the neighbours affectionately called them “two Pats”. McLarnon died in the 1990s.
Pat participated in the great social changes that altered the lives of Irish gay men after that – and I’m not just referring to his regular attendance at the Alternative Miss Ireland! At the age of 92, he celebrated a civil partnership with his partner in later life, Eric Pearse. A year later, on Valentines Day 2014, as a major retrospective of his work at IMMA was about to open, Pat Scott died.
This year, An Post have issued a series of commemorative stamps to mark the centenary of his birth, which feature his iconic gold leaf paintings.