Member of a Scottish family of painters, son of Robert Scott (1771-1841), an illustrator and engraver, and brother of David Scott, a painter and engraver.
William Bell Scott trained at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh and was taught engraving by his father. He saw the family print workshop as the lineal descendant of Albert Drer
s factory in Nrnberg ; he was later to own a fine collection of Drer
s prints and write a book about him (1870). In 1837 he went to London, where he was impressed by a new and interesting school of historical and loosely speaking, inventive and illustrative painters . This encouraged him to leave landscape painting for the time being and become a history painter. Like his brother, he entered a cartoon for the Westminster Hall competition in 1842: the Free North Britons Surprising the Roman Wall between the Tyne and Solway; this too was unsuccessful.
In 1843, discouraged by lack of patronage in London, he accepted the Mastership of the Government School of Design at Newcastle upon Tyne, where he stayed for 20 years, visiting London each summer. He was as much a poet as a painter, and his poem Rosabell (1846) excited the admiration of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who became a lifelong friend. In 1853 his Poems of a Painter was published.
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