One of the galleries at the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland has been dedicated to the Scottish Colourists. Fittingly, this gallery is next to the gallery of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings as the French artists clearly had a strong influence on the Scots.
“The Scottish Colorurits” is the name used for a movement that devloped in Scotland around the turn of the 20th century. It only includes four artists and those artists had different styles and interests. They only exhibited together three times during their lifetimes. However, all four were profoundly influenced by the art being created in Paris at that time. They took ideas born in France and incorporated them into their work. The result were colorful works, joyful without being trite or inspid.
Samuel John Peploe was born in Edinburgh and in 1893 he enrolled to study art at the Scottish Royal Academy. However, he found the approach taught there too conservative and so he moved to Paris where he attended the Academie Julian and Academie Colarosi. Returning to Edinburgh around 1897, he found some success as a landscape painter. But it was not until 1910, when he moved again to Paris that his mature style developed he began concentrating on stilllifes (although not exclusively).
Peploe's stilllifes on exhibit at the Kelvingrove reflect the influence of a number of French painters including Manet, Cezanne, and the Dutch-born Van Gogh. The objects are freely drawn but not abstract. The paintings are colorful but the colors are not bold.
Like Peploe, John Duncan Ferguson was born in Edinburgh and began his formal art studies at the Scottish Royal Academy. He too became dissatisfied with this approach and elected to teach himself art. In 1898, he made his first trip to Paris and was very impressed by the Impressionist paintings that he saw. He returned several times to Paris and lived there from 1928 to 1939. Returning to Scotland, he settled in Glasgow.
The Ferguson paintings at the Kelvingrove show the influence of the French avant garde. His portrait “Hat with Bird: Anne Estelle Rice” has a Manet-quality with its use of black and grey. “The Pink Parasol: Bertha Case” done a year later in 1908 shows influences of Matisse and Cezzane in the choice of colors while the sitter's features, although freely done, present a realistic likeness ala Manet. In ““Head of a Girl” and “Torso of a Woman,” Ferguson went further into the avant garde with a Fauvist-like style.
Francis Cadell was also born in Edinburgh and studied at the Scottish Royal Academy. He too studied in Paris at the Academie Julian and mixed with the avant garde painters then living in Paris. However, for most of his life, Cadell lived in Edinburgh, taking summer trips to the island of Iona to do landscape paintting accompanied sometimes by Peploe.
Cadell's paintings at Kelvingrove point to an interest in portraiture, especially portraits of women. His earlier works “Lady in White” and “Girl in Blue” recall female portraits by Morrisot, Monet and Renoir. His later post World War I works “A Lady in Black” and “The Orange Blind,” have a quiet elegance. The figures are less dominant. Rather, they are part of an overall composition including flat geometric shapes. Matisse and Manet have lent ideas but they have been incorporated into a unique style.
George Leslie Hunter, known professionally as Leslie Hunter, was born in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. However, his family emigrated to California while he was in his teens. Always interested in art, Hunter was constantly sketching. Largely self-taught, he established himself as an illustrator selling images to various publications. The money he received for his illustrations allowed him to travel to Paris in 1904. After that visit, Hunter decided to take up oil painting.
Returning to San Francisco, Hunter almost became a successful American artist. However, the night before his first solo exhibition was to open, the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 destroyed the gallery and most of his paintings. Dismayed, Hunter moved back to Scotland where he settled in Glasgow with his mother.
At this point, Hunter was primarily painting stilllifes in the style of the Dutch Golden Age Old Masters. However, during a visit to Paris, he met Alice Toklas who he knew from his days in San Francisco. She took Hunter to an exhibition of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works being staged by Gertrude Stein and her brother. Shocked by what he saw, Hunter's style changed from dark traditional images to modern ones with vibrant colors.
The most impressive of Hunter's paintings at Kelvingrove is “Sails,” a painting of sailboats that he did during a trip to Venice. The boats are loosely and freely drawn. Their triangular sails in orange, yellow and white dominate the scene. It is both simple and attractive.
The work of the Scottish Colourists cannot be dismissed as derivative. They did not copy the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Rather, they took ideas from France and combined them with something of themselves to carry those ideas a step further.
Francis Cadell's "“Lady in White” at the Kelvingrove.
John Ferguson's “The Pink Parasol: Bertha Case” at the Kelvingrove.
Above: Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.
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Art review - Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery - - "Scottish Colourists"