Past

The Scottish Colourist Series: SJ Peploe

  • 3rd November 2012 − 23rd June 2013 | Modern Two (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) | £7 (£5)

Experimentation

In 1905 Peploe moved studio to 32 York Place, which had been built in 1795 for Henry Raeburn. His new bright and spacious surroundings had an immediate impact on Peploe’s work. He began to paint in a lighter key on larger canvases, employing a looser technique. Using a new model, Peggy Macrae, Peploe embarked on a remarkable series of figure studies.

Peploe’s outdoor practice also developed. Paintings made in Comrie, Perthshire, where his sister lived, show an awareness of the French Impressionists while trips with Fergusson to the Normandy coast, including to Étaples and Paris-Plage, resulted in energetic plein-air works, executed in light, creamy oil paints.

Peploe’s professional and personal lives flourished. He exhibited in London for the first time in 1907 and in 1909 a second successful solo exhibition was held at The Scottish Gallery. Six works were bought by the Glasgow dealer Alexander Reid, who began to promote Peploe’s work in the west of Scotland.

The year 1910 proved to be a turning-point: after a courtship of 16 years, Peploe and Margaret Mackay were married. Encouraged by Fergusson, who had moved to Paris three years earlier, the Peploes moved to France. Following the birth of their son Willy, they settled in a studio-apartment in Montparnasse, Paris. Peploe’s work underwent a dramatic change. Experiments with bold colour and vigorous handling reveal a knowledge of Fauve artists such as Matisse and Derain. Peploe exhibited at the progressive Salon d’Automne and became part of a circle which included Fergusson and his partner, Anne Estelle Rice.

The Peploes returned to Edinburgh in 1912 where they remained for the rest of their lives. Peploe’s new work was received with scorn: The Scottish Gallery refused to show it and an exhibition that Peploe organised himself in 1913 was met with disdain. However, his work was widely exhibited in London between 1912 and 1914. Just before and after the outbreak of the WWI Peploe created a remarkable series of still lifes characterised by a pronounced design, tightening of structure and flattening of depth.  

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