Audio: Samuel John Peploe's The Coffee Pot
Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)
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Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)

The Coffee Pot

Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)
The Coffee Pot
signed 'Peploe' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24¾ x 33 in. (62.8 x 83.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1905.
Robert McVitie.
W.G.C. Quest.
Mr George Proudfoot by February 1937.
Mrs George Proudfoot by 1947.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, Glasgow, 25 April 1985, lot 147.
with Fine Art Society, London, where purchased by the present owner.
S. Cursiter, Peploe: An Intimate Memoir of an Artist and his Work, London, 1947, pl. 9, as 'Still Life, Coffee Pot'.
Exhibition catalogue, S J Peploe 1871-1935, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 1985, pp. 18, 36, no. 34, illustrated, as 'Still Life, Coffee Pot'.
R. Billcliffe, The Scottish Colourists, London, 1989, pl. 20, as 'Still Life with Coffee Pot'.
G. Peploe, S.J. Peploe, Edinburgh, 2000, pp. 105, 168, pl. 28, as 'Still-life with Coffee-pot'.
Exhibition catalogue, The Scottish Colourists 1900-1930, National Galleries of Scotland, 2000, pl. 4, as 'Still Life with Coffee Pot'.
Exhibition catalogue, Impressionism & Scotland, Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 2008, pl. 102, as 'Still Life with Coffee Pot'.
Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery, S.J. Peploe Memorial Exhibition, 1936, no. 30. Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by S.J. Peploe, February 1937, no. 24, as 'Still Life'.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Scottish Art, January - March 1939, no. 570, as 'Still Life'.
Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, S.J. Peploe, 1941, no. 21.
Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery, S.J. Peploe Paintings and Drawings, August - September 1947, no. 36.
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, S.J. Peploe: A commemorative exhibition, June - September 1985, no. 34, as 'Still Life, Coffee Pot'.
London, Royal Academy, The Scottish Colourists, June - September 2000, no. 64, as 'Still Life with Coffee Pot': this exhibition travelled to Edinburgh, Dean Gallery, November 2000 - January 2001.
Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, Impressionism & Scotland, July - October 2008, no. 102, as 'Still Life with Coffee Pot': this exhibition travelled to Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, October 2008 - February 2009.

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Lot Essay

The Coffee Pot is widely regarded as Peploe's most important and successful painting and it established him in Edinburgh as one of the most promising painters of his generation. It stands among a group of four or five works that constitute Peploe's most famous images. The importance of these pictures was confirmed by Peploe's biographer Stanley Curister: '... it is in the rare quality of colour and brilliance of their technique that these pictures hold a distinctive place' (S. Curister, Peploe; An Intimate Memoir of an Artist and of his Work, Edinburgh, 1947, p. 18).

These works were painted in 1905 and marked a significant point of mastery and accomplishment in his early career. The group of paintings included The Black Bottle (fig. 1) and Still life with a wine decanter, a glass and apples (lot 84). Guy Peploe, the artist's grandson, suggests that the 'finest achievement in this series is The Coffee Pot' (G. Peploe, S.J. Peploe, Edinburgh, 2000, p. 24). He wrote, 'Like its after-dinner subject, the work seems replete; it satisfies all our senses' (ibid, p. 24).

After his initial training in Edinburgh, Peploe left for Paris in the summer of 1894, and enrolled at the Académie Julian and the Académie Colarossi. He won a silver medal at the latter but his real education came from his immersion in Parisian artistic society. It was on his first visit to Paris that he encountered the work of Edouard Manet, which had an instant and profound effect on him. John Duncan Fergusson recalled, 'Peploe and I had both been to Paris where we were both impressed with the Impressionists whose works we saw in the Salle Caillebotte in the Luxembourg and Durand-Ruel's gallery. Manet and Monet were the painters who fixed our direction - in Peploe's case Manet especially' ('John Duncan Fergusson, Memories of Peploe', Scottish Art Review, vol. 8, no. 3). Peploe became fascinated by the still-life tradition. He visited Holland in 1895, discovering in Amsterdam the masterly series of still-life paintings by Frans Hals. He returned to Edinburgh with reproductions and photographs of works by both the Old Masters and the French Impressionists which he hung in his studio and set about assimilating these new-found influences into his own work.

Frederick Porter, the artist's brother-in-law, gives us some insight into how the artist approached his painting: 'all his still lifes were carefully arranged and considered before he put them onto the canvas. When this was done - it often took several days to accomplish - he seemed to have absorbed everything necessary for transmitting them to canvas. The result was a canvas covered without any apparent effort. If a certain touch was wrong it was soon obliterated by the palette knife. The whole canvas has to be finished in one painting session so as to preserve complete continuity' (F.P. Porter, 'The Art of S.J.Peploe', New Alliance VI, no. 6, 1945, p. 7).

The Coffee Pot can be understood as the culmination of Peploe's five year exploration of combinations of dark and light, clear colour against black and white, all handled in a creamy paint applied with expressive brush strokes. The works were shown at the Aitken Dott Gallery in Edinburgh. They met with critical acclaim and soon established Peploe's reputation in Edinburgh as one of the most promising painters of his generation. Shortly after completing The Coffee Pot Peploe abandoned this style, much to the dismay of McOmish Dott who pleaded with him to return to his old style: 'the black backgrounds and the full rich colour - he would purchase as many as Peploe would produce - but Peploe was no longer interested in these effects and was now fascinated by the possibilities of a new range of colour' (ibid, p. 19).

The Coffee Pot is a brilliant, evocative and sensual painting and remains today, as it was in 1905, one of the artist's most important works.

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