Life in Paris

John Duncan Fergusson

Scottish Colourist, John Duncan Fergusson, threw himself wholeheartedly into his new life in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The thriving bohemian Parisian café-culture proved a strong influence on his work, capturing the city's lively atmosphere with both his ambitious oils and quick charcoal sketches. Forthcoming in our next dedicated Scottish Paintings auction on 07 June are two works by Fergusson from this period.


Maxim's of Paris

Maxim's of Paris was founded as a bistro in 1893 and soon became one of the city's most popular and fashionable destinations. The restaurant's second owner, Eugene Cornuché, really brought the venue to life by installing the famous Art Nouveau interior and always making sure of a lively atmosphere. Cornuché was accustomed to say "An empty room... Never! I always have a beauty sitting by the window, in view from the sidewalk."



John Duncan Fergusson Chez Maxim
Lot 97 | [§] JOHN DUNCAN FERGUSSON R.B.A. (SCOTTISH 1874-1961)
CHEZ MAXIM | Signed verso, gouache | 40cm x 31cm (16in x 12in) | £15,000-20,000 + fees
Provenance: Purchased from Margaret Morris by the vendor's mother and thence by descent



Ida Rubinstein of the Ballets Russes

Ida Rubinstein was one of the stars of Sergei Diaghilev's famous Ballets Russes; an itinerant troupe of avant-garde dancers and performers who took Paris by storm in the first two decades of the 20th century. Many art historians now attribute much of the revolutionary cultural activity of the period to the impact of the ballet on artistic circles. From the risqué dances, extraordinary set and costume design, and boundary pushing compositions and choreography, the ballet set the abandoned, progressive tone of the day. The list of their collaborators is startling; from Stravinsky and Dubussy, to Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse and even Coco Chanel.



John Duncan Fergusson Ballet Russes
Lot 96 | [§] JOHN DUNCAN FERGUSSON R.B.A. (SCOTTISH 1874-1961)
IDA RUBINSTEIN | Inscribed and dated verso 'Diaghileff Ballet, Paris 1909', conté  | 33cm x 17.5cm (13in x 7in) | £3,000-4,000 + fees



Rubinstein was one of the spellbinding leads of the Ballet Russes. A Russian, born into a hugely wealthy aristocratic family in St Petersburg, she demonstrated a passion for performance and dance from a young age. Though dance did not come entirely naturally, the determined Rubinstein compensated for this with a magnetic stage presence and was high spirited enough to pursue her ambitions in the face of family disapproval. Convincing her parents to let her go to Paris under the pretence of furthering her education, Rubinstein took to the stage as an actress, but was committed to an asylum by her conservative brother-in-law; aghast at her perceived departure from social proprietary. Released by her concerned family, the tenacious Rubinstein married her first cousin who, madly in love with her, allowed her to travel and pursue her career in the performing arts.

1909, the year this work was created, was the year the Ballet Russes opened in Paris, and the year Rubinstein danced the title role of Cléopâtre. The timing and subject matter of this work demonstrates yet again how integrally positioned Fergusson was in the creative circles of Paris at this time. Fergusson sketched for the Ballet at the height of its success. It impacted his decision to found the Rhythmist movement, the main output of which was the production of an influential art periodical entitled 'Rhythm', which featured the work of influential modernist artists and writers. His fascination with movement, the female form and dance persisted within his work for the duration of his career, further cemented by his long-term romantic partnership with the avant-garde dancer Margaret Morris.




Dates for Your Diary


Auction | Scottish Paintings | 07 June 2018 at 6pm
Viewing | Sunday 03 June 12 noon to 4pm, Monday 04 to Wednesday 06 June 10am to 5pm, Day of sale 10am to 1pm


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