Saturday, 3 October 2020

ITC – An Education!

How I found out about the Scottish Colourists

 

In the pre Covid times, I always enjoyed my annual visit as Region Board member to Caledonia Council meetings.  


Portrait of Grace McColl by J D Fergusson


Who would not enjoy being royally entertained by old friends? I always arrived on the Saturday evening, had a splendid meal provided by my host for the weekend, then a full breakfast on the Sunday morning, and so on to the Redhurst Hotel for the Council Meeting. On one memorable occasion, I was seated comfortably enough, and from somewhere I could hear the sound of the staff preparing to serve Sunday dinner. “I’m still full from breakfast!” I began to think, when, suddenly, I found myself on the edge of my seat, almost startled. I had hardly noticed from the programme that the last event of the morning was to be “The Scottish Colourists”, but Brendan had commenced a talk and was projecting a stunning sequence of paintings onto a screen. I was surprised because, although art has always interested me, I had never heard of this group, and had never seen any of these paintings, before.

 
The Colourists were Samuel Peploe, John Fergusson, George Hunter and Francis Cadell. They were at their height between 1900 and 1930 and were very much the heirs of the French Impressionists of the nineteenth century. The name came to be applied to them because of their “use of brilliant colour to capture the rich evocation of a place or person”. What were their subjects? To continue to quote from Dr Cummings of Edinburgh University, “whether a landscape, a portrait, a still life or a subject celebrating the vibrancy of urban life, [they] convey a real sense of joie de vivre which few can match”. It’s difficult for the layman to add to that. A large part of their attraction is that they are capable of being appreciated by anyone: the viewer can simply enjoy the use of colour and not try and guess any “hidden meaning”. Confident in their own Scottishness, they spent a lot of time in France, where the sunshine gives plenty of scope for the artist. Several of their paintings were purchased for the French nation.


Disgracefully, I am not aware of any of their work being on display in any of the major English galleries, and would be very happy to be proved wrong. If you want to see more, and I hope that this very brief introduction has whetted your appetite, then the National Galleries of Scotland have some fantastic exhibitions from time to time. 

Colin Gray

 

 

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