Richard Green is delighted to present a major exhibition of more than twenty paintings by the Scottish Colourist master, Samuel John Peploe, including privately owned works rarely seen in public. Spanning three decades of the artist’s career from the 1900s to the 1930s, the exhibition focusses on Peploe’s early French landscapes painted en plein-air at Paris Plage and Cassis harbour, as well as carefully composed still lifes and flower-pieces arranged in his modernist, Edinburgh studio, culminating in a room devoted to Peploe’s exploration of the rose.
‘There you have the camaraderie, good talk, enthusiasm, you are among people who are in sympathy with you – there is plenty of amusement just merely to sit in a café and watch the people…’ SJ Peploe
The eldest and most successful of the Scottish Colourists, Peploe was a life-long Francophile; he studied, worked and exhibited in France, living in Paris for two of the happiest years of his life from 1910-1912. Before moving to the centre of the art world, Peploe and John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1964), his friend and fellow Colourist, spent summers painting together on the north-western coast, visiting the popular seaside resort of Paris Plage (now Le Touquet) in 1907. Six years later they journeyed south, following in the footsteps of the Fauves to the quiet fishing village of Cassis, in search of ‘more sun, more colour’. The remarkable, small oils on panel which Peploe painted there, document his advanced knowledge and understanding of the latest movements in Post-Impressionist painting, as well as the fast-paced development of his own painterly style. Celebrating the energy and immediacy of plein-air painting, Paris Plage captures the bright, fresh vitality of the bracing sunlit street with swift assurance and bustles with active figures defined in fluid dashes of luscious paint. By contrast, Cassis harbour shows a greater emphasis on design, the dark outlines of buildings and dramatically cropped boats providing a bold, architectonic structure, its palette revealing Peploe’s engagement with the work his Fauvist and Rhythmist contemporaries.
Peploe also travelled to Holland (1895-96) to gain first-hand experience of the Dutch Old Masters, such as Rembrandt and Hals, who, along with Manet inspired some of his earliest still lifes painted ‘alla prima’ against a dark, almost black background.
‘There is so much in mere objects, flowers, leaves, jugs, what not – colours, forms, relation – I can never see mystery coming to an end.’ SJ Peploe
Peploe is celebrated for his still life paintings, in particular his representations of Roses. Peploe’s stylistic development and the course of his important career can be documented through his depiction of Roses, from his dark, early flower-pieces influenced by Manet and Fantin-Latour at the beginning of the twentieth century, to Parisian, Post-Impressionist studies in the experimental style of Van Gogh, to more abstract patterning and bright primary colours favoured by the Fauves, demonstrating his knowledge of Japanese prints. From single stems to multiple bouquets, buds to heavy blossoms, deep reds to the palest of pinks, peach and yellow, Peploe’s academic study of the flower is unequalled in twentieth century art.
‘From about 1914 until his death, Peploe sought to paint the perfect still life. There are many changes in technique and temperament but not in purpose. With tireless, almost obsessive energy he tried to construct the significant out of the commonplace…He might paint the same flowers, roses or tulips (depending on season), three times in a week…What seems to be repetition should be understood as a finely tuned sensibility playing subtle variations on a theme.’
In his introduction to the Peploe retrospective held by Aiken & Dott in 1947, J. W. Blyth eloquently writes: ‘Having lived with Peploe’s pictures for many years, we have experienced an ever-growing conviction that he was probably the greatest painter of his generation. As is the case with most great artists, his art passed through a number of phases, and one may have preferences according to one’s individual taste, but the masterpieces of each period are eloquent of his supreme gifts as a colourist and of his amazing skill in the art of picture-making…Naturally, with the passage of years Peploe’s art expressed more and more of his own personality, and in its later phases became unique and unrivalled in its own sphere. Peploe was a great man, and his pictures are the ardent outpourings of a great heart and a great mind. To live with them is a sheet delight’.
 Guy Peploe, S J Peploe 1871-1935, exh cat, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1985, p. 13.
View the catalogue:
Wednesday, 24 May, 2017 -
Friday, 23 June, 2017
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