Fergusson is the only one of the four artists known as the Scottish Colourists – along with F. C. B. Cadell, G. L. Hunter and S. J. Peploe – to have worked in three dimensions. Indeed, he made sculpture over some 50 years, with his first created in Paris in 1908 and the last thought to date from about 1955.
As senior specialist Alice Strang has explained: "Experiments in terracotta in 1909 and clay in 1913, led to direct carving in stone outdoors during World War One. Carving wood and plaster, which he sometimes cast and coloured, followed. Works were cast in brass and bronze as funds permitted." 1 The importance of this aspect of Fergusson’s oeuvre is clear in the inclusion of sculptures in many of his exhibitions between 1912 and 1948.
Standing Female Nude dates from Fergusson’s most productive period of sculpture-making, the years approximately 1918 to 1922, when he was based in London. Sheila McGregor has linked this with a parallel development in Margaret Morris Movement, the system of choreography devised by his partner.2 Morris and her pupils, whether sitting as models or in motion during lessons, rehearsals and performances, provided a rich source of inspiration for Fergusson.
This work is a powerful depiction of female physicality. It embodies key themes in Fergusson’s sculptural practice: the cropped female form, an interest in non-Western sculpture and a sleek modernism, based on curves and planes with particular attention paid to the breasts, bottom and the base of the spine. It pays testament to the sculptors with whose work Fergusson would have been familiar in pre-war Paris, such as Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Archipenko and Jacob Epstein. Similar concerns were explored in Fergusson’s best-known sculpture, Eástre (Hymn to the Sun) of 1924.
The most significant holding of Fergusson’s sculpture is held at The Fergusson Gallery, Perth, which is the centre of excellence for his and Morris’s work. Other important examples are held in public collections including those of the Tate, Hunterian Art Gallery, Government Art Collection and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
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