Samuel John Peploe was the eldest of the four Scottish Colourists, a group of artists who worked in an idiom remarkable for its painterly freedom and richness of colour. Peploe, Cadell and Hunter first exhibited together at the Leicester Galleries in 1923; the following year they were joined by Fergusson at the Galerie Barbazanges, Paris and dubbed 'Les Peintres de L'Ecosse Moderne'. Although they were greatly influenced by French painting, particularly the developments of Fauvism, their initial approach was determined by the bold handling and use of colour established by the Scottish artists, McTaggart and Macgregor.
Peploe first studied at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1893, and then continued his training in Paris in 1893, at both the Academie Julian under Adolphe William Bouguereau, and the Atelier Colarossi. At this time he was considerably impressed by the work of Corot, Chardin, Courbet and Cezanne. He also admired Velazquez, and seventeenth-century Dutch painters, especially Frans Hals, whose work he saw on a visit to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, in 1895.
During this period, Peploe led a cosmopolitan life, working in Britain, in Barra and Devon, and travelling extensively throughout France, in the company of his friend and colleague, Fergusson, with whom he spent several holidays painting at Etaples, Paris plage, Dunkirk, Berneval, Dieppe and Le Treport.
Samuel John Peploe returned to Edinburgh in 1896 and settled at his first studio in Shandwick Place, where the dark surroundings suited the sombre palette of his early still lifes, nudes and figure studies. He moved to Devon Place in 1900, where he developed a more sophisticated choice of subject matter, matched by an increasingly rich application of paint, and to York Place in 1905, where lighter space was reflected in the heightened tonality of his work.
Peploe married Margaret MacKay in 1910, and decided to move to Paris where he remained until 1912, when he returned permanently to Edinburgh and set up a studio in Queen Street. He painted in Arran in 1913, in Crawford and Kikcudbright in 1914, and frequently spent the summer painting in Iona, with Cadell, between 1920-1933.
Peploe exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, where he was elected a member in 1927, at the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, and in London at the Allied Artists' Association. He held two one-man shows at Aitken Dott & Son in 1903 and 1909, and an exhibition at the Kraushaar Gallery, New York in 1928, and at Reid and Lefevre, London, in 1935.