Scottish Colourists at home in Hull

I don’t know the Scottish Colourists. I have heard the name. I am aware that they were painters, but I’d have been hard-pressed to tell you any more, before last Thursday’s launch of Scottish Colourists from the Fleming Collection.  The new exhibition inside the Brynmoor Jones Library runs from  25 May – 15 July 2018 at Hull University. 

The four celebrated Scottish artists named the Colourists, were Samuel Peploe, Francis Cadell, John Duncan Fergusson and Leslie Hunter. Together, they introduced the dramatic and intense colours of French Impressionism and Fauvism (strong colours fierce brushwork)  into British art in the 1920s, influenced by the art of Monet, Matisse and Cezanne.

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John Knox Dir. Fleming-Wyfold Art Collection at launch of Scottish Colourists Hull University

Invited guests are gathered in front of the colourful still life by Samuel John Peploe – from the Hull University Art Collection – for speeches, before being shown inside the remodelled gallery, complete with new flooring, and a bespoke spotlight system to show the work off to the best effect.   

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‘Always known high culture existed in Hull.’  James Knox Director Fleming-Wyfold Art Collection

James Knox spoke at length about the four artists; about their place in history; how they and their work relates to that of their peers; the adulation they receive North of the border and the many many tea towels adorned with their work. I was more interested in the talk of carousing and descriptions of an animalistic approach to the French way of life.

I pictured the four artists as rabble rousers, tearing through the French countryside, brandishing their paintbrushes as swords. I can see them mixing it with the grandees of the Parisian art world: eating up all that post-war France had to offer.

This playful narrative is brought to life, after you set eyes upon the vibrant landscapes of Bohemian villages painted plein air (outdoors). The work has been completed quickly, capturing a sense, an impression of the scene before him. The paint is applied quickly in ridges and swirls, the energy of the artist’s hand, very much present. I wonder what the locals made of these Scotsmen, setting up easels in their backyard, producing work heavily influenced by French artists.

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Luxembourg Gardens by Samuel John Peploe

Standing in front of ‘Luxembourg Gardens’ by Samuel John Peploe. I decide that I can’t get to grips with the wiggly bits. The stonework looks as if it is melting: might some of the more lurid works have been made, whilst under the spell of la fee vert (the green fairy) Absinthe?

You may divide the Scottish Colourists exhibition, hung beautifully inside the Brynmoor Jones Library – against blue-grey walls so to accentuate the warmer colours – into sections; early muddy Victorian portraits; still lives, the bold blooms with splashes and sprays of vivid colour and the finely-detailed studio studies, and a variety of very different landscapes. French villages contrast with Scottish coastlines but perhaps most eye-catching, the sweeping scenes of Perthshire countryside.

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Loch Lomond by Leslie Hunter

The scenes of Loch Lomond and Loch Crean by Hunter and Cadell respectively invite the viewer in, there’s a path winding between trees, it could almost be Little Switz on Hessle Foreshore. Reading the label beside the work I thrill at the poetry that tells of a ‘harvest of luminous paintings.’

Overhearing a conversation from an artist friend, about how the paintings appear to change depending on whether you are close up or far away, I am drawn towards the Green Sea, Iona painted by Peploe in 1935.  The white snowy blocks in the foreground with a darker landform rising from a milky blue green sea. It reminds me of the Scandinavian archipelagoes; you can almost hear the stillness on the air.

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Picture by Anna Bean

Theres an alcove dedicated to the still life work: the vases of flowers with bold bright colours that jump out at you, threaten to escape from the canvas, to the objects deliberately positioned, on a cloth-covered table and painstakingly studied in the studio, to recreate the exact way the light falls on the silverware.

John G. Bernasconi Director of Fine Art/ Director of the University Art Collection, thanked the Fleming Collection, along with faculty members and the team of skilled technicians, for their efforts in bringing the Scottish Colourists to Hull, and for the opportunity for the Poster Boys of Scottish Art to herald another year of remarkable success for the gallery.

Scottish Colourists from the Fleming Collection runs 25 May 2018 – 15 July 2018 

Gallery opening times Mon-Fri: 10.00am-7.00pm, Sat-Sun: 10.00am-5.00pm

For More Info see: CultureNet

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Picture: Anna Bean

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