• 20th Century British & Irish A auction at Christies

    Sale 5324

    20th Century British & Irish Art Evening Sale

    23 May 2012, London, King Street

  • Lot 10

    John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)

    Complexity: Mrs Julian Lousada

    Price Realised  

    John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
    Complexity: Mrs Julian Lousada
    signed and dated 'J.D. FERGUSSON 1915' (on the reverse), signed again twice 'J.D. FERGUSSON' (on the stretcher and on the frame), inscribed and dated again 'COMPLEXITY 1915' (on an artist's label attached to the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    24 x 22 in. (61 x 55.9 cm.)


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    This beautiful painting was last seen in public in 1975 and is an exciting re-discovery of an important work from Fergusson's oeuvre. Soon after the outbreak of the First World War Fergusson moved from Paris to London and for some time after his return he did very little painting, but in 1915 he began a series of portraits, including the present work, Complexity: Mrs Julian Lousada and a companion painting Simplicity: Kathleen Dillon. Both paintings were shown at the Connell Gallery in 1918 to great success and cemented Fergusson's reputation in London. Mrs Julian Lousada (n©e Maude Reignier Conder, the daughter of Colonel R.E. Conder) was the wife of Fergusson's solicitor, who was an important collector of Impressionist and twentieth century art. She was regarded to be an imposing figure from high society and the title possibly alludes to her personality. She sat for a number of artists and a portrait of her by Ambrose McEvoy is in the collection of the Rochdale Art Gallery.

    On the outbreak of the First World War Fergusson returned to London, and later went back to Edinburgh and for the next two years he spent his time between the two cities. Fergusson eventually took permanent lodgings at 14 Redcliffe Road in Chelsea and this was through his desire to be close to Margaret Morris who had set up a dance school. Morris's role was to be vital to his subsequent artistic development, as was her financial support over this period. Her work provided a critical focus for his own, not least because she and her pupils became his most frequent source of artistic inspiration. In return, Fergusson gave art lessons at her school and became more deeply involved with the design of stage sets, costumes and lighting for her performances. Morris acknowledged her debt to Fergusson: 'I first realised the absolute necessity of relating movement with form and colour when studying painting of the modern movement in Paris in 1913. From that time I incorporated it as one of the main studies in my school. In this connection I am deeply indebted to JD Fergusson the painter, who for years taught the painting, design and sculpture in my school and who first made me realise the possibilities of theatrical work considered from the visual point of view and the value of the study of form and colour as a means of education' (M. Morris, Margaret Morris dancing, 1925, p. 86).

    As in Paris the lifestyle and artistic circles that Fergusson and Morris had enjoyed continued with a range of stimulating social encounters in London. Significantly for Fergusson, Morris held a weekly club at her modest theatre premises and many leading figures of the British avant-garde attended, including Augustus John, Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis, Arnold Bax, Erza Pound and the Sitwell and Goossens families. Contact with this mix of artists, writers and musicians provided some sense of continuity with the lively atmosphere he had enjoyed in the Paris cafes. This bohemian lifestyle into which Fergusson had by then settled was the impetus for him to paint again and with renewed vigour. Amongst this series, Fergusson describes the sitter Katherine Dillon from the companion painting Simplicity and we get an indication of how he visualised his sitters: 'when I came back to London at the beginning of the first world war in 1914, I met one of Margaret Morris's best pupils, Kathleen Dillon, a very good looking charming and intelligent girl ... one day she arrived with a remarkable hat ... It was just like a rose, going from the centre convolution and continuing the 'Rhythm' idea developed in Paris and still with me. Looking at Kathleen I soon saw that the hat was not merely a hat, but a continuation of the girl's character, her mouth, her nostril, the curl of her hair - the whole character' (J.D. Fergusson, quoted by Margaret Morris in The Art of J.D. Fergusson A Biased Biography, Glasgow and London, 1974, p. 103).

    During this period he first turned to sculpture and then to this series of portraits in which he attempted to rationalise, on a smaller scale, the developments of 1910-1912. However, with this painting it is more than just a portrait of Mrs Julian Lousada, the painting takes on a still life quality throughout, a new formalisation of beauty and with it a modernist approach to painting. This work is suggestive of the eternal rhythm of organic growth and like his contemporary female nudes this work reflects an appreciation and understanding of the essence of beauty and has an almost sensual expression of natural forms and glowing colour. These are the same rhythms that Matisse had exploited in the pictures that had greatly inspired Fergusson in the early Paris years. During those years colour and light had fascinated him and it is not surprising that it was the Fauves, of all the avant-garde groups in Paris, which most attracted him. This portrait displays a deep understanding of form, rhythmic line and a fascination with the shapes of objects, and throughout the composition he has used colour and pattern to suggest the personality and beauty of the sitter.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.


    Provenance

    Mrs Margaret Morris Fergusson.
    with Fine Art Society, London, where purchased by the present owner in January 1975.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF LEO HERZEL, CHICAGO


    Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, John Duncan Fergusson Memorial Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, Edinburgh, Arts Council, 1961, pp. 32-33, no. 74, pl. 13.
    K. Simister, A Living Paint: J.D. Fergusson, Edinburgh, 2001, pp. 92-93, illustrated (the artist with the painting).


    Exhibited

    London, Connell Gallery, John Duncan Fergusson Exhibition, Painting and Sculpture, 1918, no. 6.
    London, Lefevre Gallery, John Duncan Fergusson Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures, 1939, no. 4.
    Edinburgh, l'Institute Français d'Ecosse, John Duncan Fergusson Exhibition of Paintings of France and Scotland, February - March 1950, no. 26.
    London, Lefevre Gallery, John Duncan Fergusson Exhibition of Paintings, 1955, no. 9.
    Edinburgh, Arts Council, Scottish Committee, Royal Scottish Academy, JD Fergusson Memorial Exhibition of paintings and sculpture, November - December 1961, no. 74: this exhibition travelled to Glasgow, Art Gallery and Museum, December 1961 - January 1962; Dundee, Art Gallery, January 1962; Aberdeen, Art Gallery, February 1962; Stirling, Smith Art Gallery, March 1962; Perth, Art Gallery, March - April 1962; and Eastbourne, Towner Art Gallery, May - June 1962.
    London, Leicester Galleries, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture by John Duncan Fergusson, May - June 1964, no. 67.
    London, Fine Art Society, J.D. Fergusson, 1874-1961: exhibition of paintings and sculpture, September - October 1974, no. 59: this exhibition travelled to Glasgow, Art Gallery and Museum; and Edinburgh, Fine Art Society.
    Manchester, City Art Gallery, on loan from the J.D. Fergusson Art Foundation.