OIL PAINTING: Wild Flower, 1881
Stott painted Wild Flower, a studio composition based on an unknown child model, in Paris during the winter of 1880 and recorded the picture in a notebook as 'Jeune-fille-en blanc / Fleur Sauvage /Paris, exhibited Cercle des Arts Libereaux, 1882'. The title Wild Flower may symbolize childish wilfulness, while the first part of this entry clearly alludes to Whistler's "The White Girl of 1862": indeed, the lack of narrative in Wild Flower, together with the model's unbound auburn hair and inscrutable expression, not to mention the white background, rug and fallen petals, all suggest a conscious appropriation of Whistler's iconography. However, the theme of tainted innocence subtly implied in The White Girl is treated with much greater daring in Stott's image, with its startling juxtaposition of vulnerable exposed flesh against soft fur offset by brittle roses. Both the crease across the girl's stomach and her downcast exhausted
demeanour create an intimation of violation made all the more disturbing by the model's childlike figure: the shadow along her left arm partially obscures her tiny waist and hips.
Although it was customary for children and adolescents to pose as models, the absence of any allegorical or mythological message in this painting enhances the viewer's sense of tense psychological intensity; by contrast Stott's portrayals of naked boys are more informal and uninhibited.
It was probably due to the sensitive undertones of the subject that Wild Flower was only exhibited once during Stott's lifetime. It was not shown at his solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1889, nor was it among the paintings he sent to Les XX at Brussels in 1884 and 1889. In 1902 it appeared at a posthumous exhibition of Stott's work at the People's Palace in Glasgow and in the autumn of 1912 it was shown in Manchester. Since then it has only been exhibited once at Oldham in 1987, when it had to be removed due to vociferous complaints from a local official.