It would not be an overstatement to say that a sketchbook and pencil were fundamental to Fergusson’s practice. He produced hundreds of drawings, many of which are now housed in museum collections, or treasured on the walls of private homes. Drawing from life, whether it be the patrons of a bustling Parisian café or one of his partner Margaret Morris’ dancers, Fergusson’s sketches demonstrate his vocation to his craft, and frequently capture the joie de vivre which permeates so much of his work. He would later urge his pupils to adopt the practice, explaining: “you are training your eye to see and your hand to respond”.
The selection offered here for sale demonstrates a conscious attempt to represent the various and most notable facets of Fergusson’s works on paper. This well curated group illustrates the evolution from the tight, academic hatching of his early Edinburgh mode, seen here in the beautifully executed ‘Woman in a Large Hat’, to the angular and economic lines of his mature technique which reveal an absorption of Cubist tendencies from his time on the Continent.
His iconic head studies of sensuous and idealised women seem in their simplicity and solidity to relate closely to his sculptural works; most notably his remarkable ‘Eastre: Hymn to the Sun’.
His highly structural landscape ‘Figure Promenading, Harlech’ draws to mind Cezanne’s cleverly receding vistas, combined with a dynamism of movement that shows a close familiarity with the Vorticist movement. Margaret Morris, Fergusson's partner, held her summer dance school in Harlech in 1919 and 1921. This drawing probably dates from 1921.
The dashing ‘Self Portrait’ sees Fergusson use himself as model. These studies frequently lean towards caricature; his strong, angular features lending themselves well to being broken down into simplistic shapes for compositional effect.
Perhaps the most significant sketch in this selection, however, is the wonderful ‘Flowers and Fruit’, of 1911. It relates to one of a handful of bold still lives in oil which Fergusson made between 1910 and 1912. It was created for publication, though for unknown reasons was never dispatched to the printers, and was likely originally destined for the journal ‘Rhythm’, of which Fergusson was art-editor in Paris from 1911-1913.
We were delighted to present a comprehensive selection of works in our February 2021 auction, A Celtic Vision: A Private Collection of Scottish Paintings.