Collected by Picasso, André Breton, and Jean Dubuffet, Scottie Wilson was a major figure in twentieth-century art. One of five children, Wilson was born in Glasgow in 1888. As a child he was fond of trees and animals, especially birds. Ten years old and illiterate, Wilson sold newspapers; and at the age of sixteen he joined the army, serving in the West Indies and South Africa. Back in London, Wilson made a living as an itinerant engraver. In 1928 he emigrated to Canada, where he opened a secondhand 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 his creative output grew steadily. His early drawings, dark and disturbing, gave way gradually to a joyous universe, colorful and calm. These works — “some of the most stunning and fascinating,” said Dubuffet — represent ghosts, trees, totems, castles, fountains, and animals. Yet all these flora and fauna exist for the artist only once the drawing has been completed. “They are too beautiful for this earth,” said Wilson.
After World War II and again back in London, Wilson showed his drawings at exhibitions he himself organized, often in unusual settings.
Today Wilson’s work is exhibited in numerous museums throughout the world.