John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
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John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)

Dinard, the Islands

John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
Dinard, the Islands
signed and dated 'J.D FERGUSSON./1930.' (on the reverse), signed again and inscribed 'DINARD THE ISLANDS/J.D. FERGUSSON' (on the artist's label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
21 x 25 ½ in. (53.3 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted in 1930.
Margaret Morris, the artist's wife.
with Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery, London.
Mrs A. Hunter, Glasgow.
with Portland Gallery, London.
with Paisnel Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owner in 2000.
E. Mundy and C. Philo, exhibition catalogue, Modern Scottish & English Paintings 1885-1955, New York, The Artis Group, 1989, pp. 46-47, no. 23, illustrated, as 'The Islands of Dinard'.
Exhibition catalogue, The Scottish Colourists, New York, Beadlestone Gallery, 1998, pp. 28-29, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
Glasgow, Annan Gallery, John Duncan Fergusson: Paintings 1898-1957, May - June 1957, no. 6.
New York, The Artis Group, Modern Scottish & English Paintings 1885-1955, April 1989, no. 23, as 'The Islands of Dinard'.
New York, Beadlestone Gallery, The Scottish Colourists, October 1998, exhibition not numbered.
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.

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William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay

J.D. Fergusson was one of the most versatile and experimental of the celebrated group of Scottish Colourist artists. In 1920, he and his partner Margaret Morris went to Dinard, a beautiful fortified town in Brittany which had become a popular holiday destination for the wealthy at the end of the 19th Century. This Normandy coastal haunt soon became a favourite for Fergusson and Morris, and during the following years they regularly returned there. Morris, who was a well-known dancer, held an annual summer school at Dinard, as well as in the Côte d'Azur, teaching her innovative form of dance; meanwhile, Fergusson produced some of his most exquisite works here, painting the picturesque landscape around him, and Margaret’s exotic dancers.

Dinard, the Islands, 1930, has many elements which subtly come together to form an outstanding visual feast. Fergusson considered light as the basis of any painting and he took seriously the challenge of rendering it in his paintings. In the introduction to the catalogue of his 1905 solo exhibition in London, Fergusson, inspired by the influence of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionist artists, stated that he was ‘trying for truth, for reality; through light'. He continued, 'That to the realist in painting, light is the mystery; for form and colour which are the painter’s only means of representing life, exist only on account of light’. The features of the mild coastal climate, with its clear and crisp light, are perfectly captured by the artist’s striking palette of cool tones, cleverly pairing sky blues, pale mauves, fresh yellows and whites with more saturated greens and burnt sienna hues to create a serene yet animated scene.

Moving away from his more overtly Impressionist inspired early landscapes, Fergusson now explored a bolder, new style where line and form played a more dominant role alongside colour. Stylistically, the present work is closer to Fergusson’s work of the 1920s, when his style had become more sophisticated and his paintings reflected the serenity and quiet confidence of the mature master. He approached the new outdoors scenes, as seen here, by using a precision of pattern and design, focusing on geometric values and strong spatial divisions. Although his carefully constructed composition and energetically applied paint (using repetitive, small and vibrant brushstrokes to build complex fields of colour) have obvious hints of Van Gogh’s or Cézanne’s style, the hand of Fergusson remains pure and authentic. In Dinard, the Islands, the geometric lines and curves of the architectural constructions, the boat and the sea, contrast with the broken lines of the softly painted clouds and the semi abstract trees. Furthermore, these trees, with their sinuous shapes, remarkably suggest a frieze of dancers in the foreground.

The present work is an ode to colour, vitality and serenity. It is an outstanding example of Fergusson’s mature style and among the finest and most elegant landscapes he produced throughout his career. Fergusson's masterful combination of the latest artistic techniques emanating from France at the time with his Scottish heritage, resulted in a bold and exciting modernism, hitherto unseen in Britain.

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