John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)


John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
signed, inscribed, and dated '"POISE"/J.D.FERGUSSON./1916.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 27 7/8 in. (76.2 x 71 cm.)
with Connell Gallery, London, May 1918.
C. Marriott, 'J.D. Fergusson His Place in Art', Colour, June 1918, pp. 98-102, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Painting & Sculpture by J.D. Fergusson, 1918, no. 12.
London, Connell Gallery, Painting & Sculpture by J.D. Fergusson, May 1918, no. 12.
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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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Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

Painted in 1916, this oil entitled Poise is emblematic of Fergusson’s artistic interests from this period. Having arrived back in England from Paris’ vibrant and bohemian art scene after the outbreak of the First World War, the artist embarked on a series of portraits in 1915 that would captivate him for several years. Comparing Poise with Simplicity:Kathleen Dillon or Complexity: Mrs Julian Lousada (1915) (sold in these Rooms, 23 May 2012, lot 10, for £157,250) or his depictions of fashionable Parisian ladies from a few years before, a sense of distinct formal clarity resounds in the work presented here. The highly decorative, and floral-like patterns that surround his earlier sitters, are replaced with a more realistic interior. A pillow, painting on a wall and edge of what could be a fruit bowl give a tangible context to our sitter – a sharp contrast to Fergusson’s decorative backgrounds that perhaps acted more as reflections of his sitters’ personalities, rather than literal locations. Similarly, the lightness created by an abundant use of white in Poise, creates a freshness and lucidity, whilst shrouding the scene in what could be morning light.

It is interesting to note that Fergusson does not reveal his sitter’s identity in his title, instead chooses to give her an altogether more eternal presence by associating her with a symbolic notion. Poise, as its title suggests, is a scene of graceful elegance. The lack of frivolous decoration, even in the clothing and hairstyle of the lady, combined with the clarity of the background generates a sense of harmony and simplicity so different from the works mentioned above.

The vivid palette employed by Fergusson in this work brings to mind the cheerful interior scenes of Matisse, who the artist came into contact with in Paris. Fergusson took his first trip to Paris in 1898 where he became highly influenced by Impressionism, however by the time this painting was produced, far more influences took hold. During his time in the art capital in the years after 1907, Fergusson gained from vast exposure to modern French art and this inevitably had a resounding impact on his consequent canvases, however knowledge of wider European artistic trends certainly played an important role. Looking at the confident use of line and prominence of painted striations, one can see how the sculptural quality of his figures displays Cubist inclinations that are also mingled with a more Futurist quality of line and colour. It is this, married with decorative elements that defined his recognizably individual style. Arguably, Fergusson’s immersion in foreign artistic trends spurned him on to become the most experimental of the Scottish colourists. The turn of the century was a highly vibrant time for art across Europe with Cubism, late Impressionism, Fauvism and Futurism spreading across the art scene. It offered Fergusson the chance to explore all of these varied strands but always remaining firmly within the borders of the figurative. Throughout his career Fergusson’s style altered depending on which external influences affected him most at that time. His interest in Futurism for example, arguably reached its culmination in his bronze head of a woman, Eastre, Hymn to the Sun, 1924.

Poise shows a wealth of Fergusson’s eclectic range of influences and acts as an emphatic example of his deep understanding of form, rhythmic line and the shapes of objects - notions that remained central to his artistic explorations throughout the rest of his prolific career. At Fergusson's 1918 exhibition at Connell Gallery, Poise had the highest asking price of all his works, presumably because he and his dealer both considered it to be the finest in the exhibition.

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