The Scottish Colourists: Post-Impressionist Brilliance

Scottish Colourists

In the 1920s, a group of four Scots artists exhibited together for the first time. This group, known as the Scottish Colourists, were famous for their loose handling of paint and for their strong colours.

The influences of the Scottish Colourists

They were influenced by both the Fauvism movement and by the artist Matisse. Their art was never too highly regarded by critics; however, they were instrumental in furthering the Glasgow School of Painting’s response to the Post-impressionism movement.

The French effect

All four of the Scottish colourists spent time working and living in France prior to World War I. The four artists, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, Samuel John Peploe, George Leslie Hunter, and John Duncan Fergusson formed the group early on.

Self-portrait_of_John_Duncan_Fergusson

The name the Scottish Colourists was popularized by the 1950 book by T.J. Honeyman, “The Three Scottish Colourists”. This was a critique of Cadell, Peploe, and Hunter. The fourth painter, Fergusson was added to the group later on.

How they became Scottish art favourites

The Scottish Colourists were popular in Scottish Art during the 1920s and 1930s, though they fell out of favour in the 1940s. Many of their paintings were of landscapes, which fell out of fashion during the 1940s, 50s, 60s and most of the 70s.

Peploe_selfportrait

In 1980, they were rediscovered and regained popularity through the later twentieth century. A still life by Peploe sold for one million pounds in 2011 setting a record for a work by a Scottish painter.

Their landscape work

(c) Perth & Kinross Council (Mrs Jenny Kinnear) SINGLE CONSENT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Perth & Kinross Council (Mrs Jenny Kinnear) SINGLE CONSENT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

All four of the artist dabbled in landscapes. The biggest body of Scottish landscape pieces were produced by John Duncan Ferguson. He painted bold pieces that focused on trees and water.

Francis Cadell is also well known for his series of landscape paintings. He started painting the series on the Inner Hebridean island of Iona. This series attracted the attention of art critics because of the way he captured the unique Scottish light. Again, many of his pieces featured water, as you would expect for an artist based on an island the sea played a big role in many of his paintings.

Scottish Colourist George Leslie Hunter exhibition at City Art Centre
Scottish Colourist George Leslie Hunter exhibition at City Art Centre

Where to experience the work of the Scottish Colourists

In November 2012, an exhibit of work by the Scottish Colourists opened in Edinburgh Scotland at the National Gallery of Art. Their work is also on display in Scotland at the University of Stirling, the Aberdeen Art Gallery, The Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, the J.D. Fergusson Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Individual Styles

While considered as an artistic group, each of the Scottish Colourists had their own individual style. Each had a specific artistic focus and personality. They did not work as a group, preferring to work individually. While immensely popular in modern circles, none of the Scottish Colourists was featured in the Post-Impressionist exhibits arranged by art critic Roger Fry in 1910 and 1912 at the Grafton Galleries in London.

francis campbell

The Scottish Colourists’ first significant gallery showing was the 1924 exhibit held at the Barbazanges Gallery located in Paris.

george leslies hunter painting

Most known for introducing the Post-Impressionist movement to Scotland, since the work of the Scottish Colourists was primarily done while the artists were living in France, the Scottish Colourists provided a direct link between the art of Scotland and the Ecole de Paris.