Paintings specialist Iain Gale reveals a surprising mystery surrounding the location of certain Parisian works by Scottish Colourist painters, Samuel John Peploe and John Duncan Fergusson.
§ JOHN DUNCAN FERGUSSON R.B.A. (SCOTTISH 1874-1961)
AT A CAFÉ TABLE
Oil on board
24cm x 19cm (9.5in x 7.5in)
Sold for £194,500 in June 2016
In the early 1900s Paris was the epicentre of the art world, attracting international artists including Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse and Braque. Among the painters were two Scots, S.J. Peploe and J.D. Fergusson, two of the four Scottish Colourists. Over a decade, they painted the ‘city of light’ which they came to know so well.
Although both men travelled regularly to the capital from the mid-1890s and passed through every year from 1904 to 1907 en route to Normandy, when it came to taking up permanent residence, Fergusson was the trail blazer. In 1907 he settled in a studio at 15 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, in Montparnasse, in the Bohemian heartland. Thereafter he exhibited at the Salon D’Automne between 1907-1912, when he left for Antibes. He was followed to Paris in the late Summer of 1910 by Peploe, who rented a studio at 278 Boulevard Raspail, not returning to Edinburgh until the summer of 1912.
The Rive Gauche became their hunting ground for subject matter, from the promenaders in the Luxembourg Gardens, to the habitués of the cafés, concerts and cabarets. Café Harcourt on the Boulevard St Michel became a favourite haunt, along with Boudet’s concert hall, the Mayol music hall in Rue de L’Echequier, the theatre Gaîté Montparnasse and of course the Cirque Medrano on Boulevard Rochechouart.
Making all these places their home, both men would sketch quickly in oils in preparation for larger works. Yet they also produced a number of small, exuberant paintings on board and panel, which were never worked up and which can now command six figure sums.
It is curious, however, that in the past thirty years only some forty of these smaller works have come to auction. With another sixteen in public collections making a total of 56, it seems that in the combined ten years that they were there, the two men painted less than 60 such works, or perhaps just three each a year. So where are the missing pictures? Clearly a good number must be in private collections and it is possible that some were destroyed by the artists as unworthy or almost certainly in Fergusson’s case, when at his most impoverished, painted over with new work. But surely that can’t be the case with so many? So where are these missing Parisian masterpieces by two of modern art’s greatest sons? At Lyon & Turnbull we are making it our mission to find out.
If you think you have one of the missing Parisian pictures, and would like to discuss it further with one of our Scottish Art specialists, or get an up-to-date valuation, please get in touch.
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Scottish Paintings & Sculpture | 8 June 2017