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Samuel John Peploe - Still life of pink & red roses in a Chinese vase

Samuel John Peploe

Still life of pink & red roses in a Chinese vase

Oil on canvas: 25(h) x 25(w) in / 63.5(h) x 63.5(w) cm
Signed lower right: Peploe

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BP 91



1871 - Edinburgh - 1935


Still life of pink & red roses in a Chinese vase


Signed lower right: Peploe

Oil on canvas: 25 x 25 in / 63.5 x 63.5 cm

Frame size: 32 ½ x 32 ½ in / 82.6 x 82.6 cm


Painted circa 1918 -1922



The Alexander Reid Collection

Fine Art Society, London

Private collection, purchased from the above in June 1967

Richard Green, London, 2004

Private collection, USA



London, Richard Green, Realism to Abstract II, November 2004, no. 12



This exceptional, dramatic work exemplifies Guy Peploe’s description of ‘the brilliant, jazz-age still-lives that are associated with the early 1920s...some of the most sumptuous, heady paintings of Peploe’s career.’[1] Painted in his large, luminescent studio at 54 Shadwick Place, Edinburgh, previously occupied by the painter James Patterson (1854-1932), Peploe set to work dressing the

stark, white set for his theatrical still lifes using swathes of different coloured fabrics bought from Whytock and Reid, the renowned Edinburgh decorators and furnishers, here dark blue, white, emerald green and acid yellow to highlight the glorious roses centre stage.


From 1914 onwards Samuel John Peploe endeavoured to paint the perfect still life and he applied himself to his cause with great purpose, concentrating on a few simple elements. Peploe’s friend and fellow artist Stanley Cursiter wrote in his biography of Peploe that the 1920s marked a time where he had ‘reached a stage at which his new technique was fully formed. The war years had been a time of preparation, intensive study, and concentration on the problems of colour, form, and lighting. He was like a coiled spring awaiting merely the opportunity to expand’.[2]


Still life of pink and red roses in a Chinese vase features a blue and white oriental vase of which Peploe was an avid collector. He owned many of his own and included such vases in several of his still life compositions. These still lifes were defined by a varying combination of different fruits, flowers, and vases that were placed against block colours such as rich blues or, as seen here, the bold green of a fabric draped in the background. Peploe demonstrates a tightening in his handling of paint that is apparent throughout the work he produced in the 1920’s. As he broadened the range of his colour palette, the artist synthesised the traditional still life composition with a playful exploration of the decorative. Peploe moved forwards towards a rich patterning of colour that is evident in the vivid painting of the pink and red roses. The roses are against strong colours such as the green of the background as well as the bright, fresh yellow of the table beneath them. Peploe, more than any other member of the Scottish Colourists, was influenced by not only the radical work of the Fauvist’s but also of the Cubists. Peploe utilises an almost sculptural consideration of form and space throughout this work and the geometric qualities found in his representation of certain objects simplifies form and allows the artist to explore pure colour in the flattened pictorial space he’s created.


In his introduction to the Peploe retrospective held by Aiken & Dott in 1947, in which the present work was exhibited, 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’.


SJ Peploe, Roses, c.1920–1925

Oil on canvas: 50.8 x 61 cm

National Galleries of Scotland






1871 - Edinburgh - 1935


Samuel John Peploe was the eldest of the Scottish Colourists and worked in a style remarkable for its painterly freedom and richness of colour. Together with Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, George Leslie Hunter and John Duncan Fergusson, whose work was also characterised by the bold handling and use of colour, they were dubbed ‘Les Peintres de L’Ecosse Moderne’ following their first exhibition in Paris in 1924.


Peploe first studied at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1893, and then continued his training in Paris, at both the Académie Julian under Adolphe William Bouguereau (1825-1905), and the Académie Colarossi. At this time he was considerably impressed by the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). He also admired Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), and seventeenth-century Dutch painters, especially Frans Hals (c1582-1666), whose work he saw on a visit to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, in 1895. During this period, Peploe led a cosmopolitan life, working in Britain, 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 Tréport. In 1896, Peploe returned to Edinburgh 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.


He 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.


The work of Samuel John Peploe is represented in Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, University of Aberdeen; University of St Andrews; Rozelle House Galleries, South Ayrshire; Birmingham Museums Trust; Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Pallant House Gallery, Chichester; Gracefield Arts Centre, The Stewarty Museum, Dumfries and Galloway; Lillie Art Gallery, East Dunbartonshire; Dundee Art Galleries and Museums, University of Dundee; National Museum Scotland, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh Council, University of Edinburgh; Kirkcaldy

Galleries, Fife; the Burrell Collection, Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre; Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, University of Hull; McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Inverclyde; Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Lakeland Arts Trust, Kendal; Leeds Museums and Galleries; The Courtauld Gallery, the Fleming Collection, Tate Britain and William Morris Gallery, London; Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA); Manchester City Galleries; National Trust for Scotland; Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle; Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire; Perth & Kinross Council; The Atkinson, Southport; The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent and Ulster Museum, National Museums Northern Ireland.



[1] Guy Peploe, S.J. Peploe 1871-1935, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 2000, pp. 66-67.

[2]  Stanley Cursiter, Peploe; An intimate memoir of an artist and of his work, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., London, 1947, p. 51

Other Works By
Samuel John Peploe:

Samuel John Peploe - Paris Plage Samuel John Peploe - Roses