Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)
Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)

Still life with roses and fruit

Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)
Still life with roses and fruit
signed 'Peploe' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
22 x 20 in. (55.8 x 50.8 cm.)
There is a still life of vegetables by the artist on the reverse, signed 'Peploe' (lower right)
Willy Peploe, the artist's son, and by descent.
Glasgow, McLellan Galleries (catalogue not traced).

Brought to you by

Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

For S.J. Peploe the period after the First World War was marked by high activity and ever increasing success. By this stage Peploe had fully matured as an artist and this is seen in the assurity and competence of his work, as well as his election as an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy, something which he accepted, although he never became a very active member. In 1918 he moved to a new studio at 54 Shandwick Place, which he found much more agreeable than the previous studio in Queen Street. The new studio was painted white and had a large, high and well-placed window.

In 1920 his fellow colourist and closest friend F.C.B. Cadell invited Peploe to join him to paint on Iona. Cadell had been painting there for some time and owned a cottage on the island. Peploe was inspired by Iona and returned from there with renewed purpose, the environment having generated immediate development of his art. His routine and output developed in two directions: the freely expressive Iona landscapes painted during the summer; and the carefully constructed still life and flower-pieces painted in his studio.

Studies of roses, in particular, began to appear, forming the first of a series of rose pictures which he continued to produce throughout the years, changing as his style developed, but invariably fine. His flower pictures followed the seasons, tulips in spring, roses in summer, fruit and vegetables in winter. It is therefore, fair to assume that the still life of leeks and other vegetables on the reverse of this canvas, was painted initially and that the still life of roses followed, maybe a season later, re-using the canvas. Stanley Cursiter notes 'When Peploe selected his flowers or fruit from a painter's point of view he presented a new problem to the Edinburgh florists. They did not always understand when he rejected a lemon, for its form, or a pear for its colour, and he remained unmoved by the protestations of ripeness or flavour' (S. Cursiter, Peploe, London, 1947, p. 55).

The compositional devices that we see in the present work, were favoured by Peploe in a number of his paintings. The Chinese vase and mirror seen in Still life with roses and fruit are visible in Roses on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. The positioning of an oval mirror against a white backdrop, invariably cut off by the top of the picture plane, with its reflection adding to the composition, is a device that he uses successfully in a number of works. Again this is seen in another picture Still life with roses and mirror, at the National Trust for Scotland, House of Dun, Montrose, Angus, and Roses, painted circa 1922 which was sold for a world record price at the time, of £529,250 at Christie's, Edinburgh, 23 October 2008, lot 152. In these works, Peploe has progressed from the heavy outline used in his earlier still lifes, to a tonally more harmonious colour spectrum. This allows the colours of the carefully selected roses and fruit stand out and draw the eye to the centre of the composition, whilst at the same time, the clear and bright light floods the image, creating a freshness and vibrancy that was unsurpassed.

Although Peploe had exhibited extensively in Scotland, due in the main to the great support and patronage of the dealers Alexander Reid and George Proudfoot, there were no exhibitions of Peploe's works in London prior to the Leicester Gallery exhibition in January 1923, part of a joint exhibition with Cadell and Hunter. Two years later they held a further exhibition of paintings by all four Scottish colourists. The preface to the catalogue was written by the artist Walter Richard Sickert, and his note about Peploe was as follows: 'Mr Peploe has carried a certain kind of delicious skill to a pitch of virtuosity that might have led to mere repetition, and his present orientation has certainly been a kind of re-birth. He has transferred his unit of attention from attenuated and exquisite graduations of tone to no less skilfully related colour. And by relating all his lines with frankness to the 180 degrees of two right angles, he is able to capture and digest a wider field of vision than before. And time, as the poet sings, is an important element in the gathering of roses. His volte-face has been an intellectual progress. And it is probably for this reason that, obviously beautiful as was Mr Peploe's earlier quality, his present one will establish itself as the more beautiful of the two.'

This is the first time that the present work has come to market since it was painted. It has remained in the family, Peploe bequeathing the picture to his son Willy. Willy worked for the Lefevre Gallery before the Second World War, when he became Controller of Imports and Exports in Kenya. He returned to London when war was over, to become director of the Lefevre Gallery. His wife Clotilde (Cloclo) Peploe was an artist in her own right, who, although reticent to show her work, did exhibit at the New Grafton Gallery in 1973, 1978 and 1982.

"Even be Peploe's motif a single rose, he gave to it by his significant design and colour a more enduring bloom than any yet produced by the superficial formula of academic cosmetics"
(E. A. Taylor, (intro.), exhibition catalogue, S. J. Peploe memorial exhibition, Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, 1937).

Related Articles

View all
Spring fever auction at Christies

Spring fever

 Giuseppe Eskenazi: the world’ auction at Christies
Barometers: a collecting guide auction at Christies

More from Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale

View All
View All