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

Black bottle, napkin and green apples

Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935)
Black bottle, napkin and green apples
signed 'SJ Peploe' (lower left)
oil on canvas
18¼ x 22 in. (46.3 x 55.9 cm.)
Painted circa 1916.
with Alex Reid & Lefevre, London.
Major Ion Harrison, and by descent.
G. Peploe, S.J. Peploe, 1871 - 1935, Edinburgh, 2000, p. 129, pl. 71.
G. Peploe, S.J. Peploe, Surrey, 2012, pp. 114, 113, pl. 126.
Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, The Thistle Foundation, Pictures From a Private Collection, March 1951, no. 2.
Edinburgh, Fine Art Society, Three Scottish Colourists: Peploe, Cadell, Hunter, February - March 1977, no. 19: this exhibition travelled to London, Fine Art Society, March - April 1977.

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André Zlattinger
André Zlattinger

Lot Essay

Black bottle, napkin and green apples was painted in arguably Peploe's most accomplished period of his career, when the influence of Cézanne was particularly apparent in his work. The artist's meticulous preparation, boldness and use of block colour, is particularly notable in the present work - a tour-de-force of still life painting which exemplifies Peploe at his very best. The assemblage of objects and surfaces are exquisitely bound together in this work by Peploe's ability to set areas of strong colour side by side and to offset these areas with a complex play of white tones.

As Guy Peploe explains: 'His new studio in Queen Street was bright ... and he painted the walls white and kept the room as light as possible Now he would very often employ a straight line to divide his composition into table-top and background drape. He was still interested in rich pattern-making but this was exercised in the choice of a piece of drapery or a Japanese print as objects within his still-life composition. Peploe never allowed his experiments with colour and structure to consume his lifelong concern with his matière: the substance of the paint itself. By 1916 ... he has reduced the evidence of the brushmarks ... in favour of greater naturalism ... Peploe paints the half-tones in the shadows and models his objects to effect a monumentality which will return in another ten years but which in the immediate gives way to pure colour.' (see G. Peploe, S.J. Peploe, 1871 - 1935, pp. 53-54).

This was a period of particularly enthusiastic activity for Peploe in which he painted many of his greatest still lifes. The sculptural quality of Peploe's work for the journal Rhythm of which J.D. Fergusson was the editor, permeated into his oil paintings around this time and the flattened pictorial space and pure colour of the present work demonstrates the artist's appreciation of the Cubists and Fauves. Peploe's work was not concerned with self-consciously clever manipulations of light or distance and there is no meaning to be read in the symbolism of the objects, fruit or flowers represented. His still lifes portray the simple but fascinating and dynamic qualities of form and colour.

'Paul Cézanne's investigation of the underlying structure of the visual world in terms of its geometry while at the same time trying to reveal its truth and charm chimed well with Peploe ... both men were inspired by an infinity of relationships in nature all worthy of close examination' (op. cit., p. 54). Guy Peploe highlights this influence on Peploe's output at this time, which is seen most clearly in the present work: 'the solidly modelled fruit and ornaments, perhaps best exemplified in Still-life, Black Bottle, whose simple ingredients described in plain light might have been drawn from Cézanne's simple, rustic world' (G. Peploe, S.J. Peploe, p. 113).

Major Ion Harrison, who owned Black bottle, napkin and green apples was a hugely important patron of all four of the Colourists. Taking advice from his great friend Dr Tom Honeyman, Director of Glasgow's Art Gallery, Harrison assembled an extraordinary range of pictures and became close friends with the artists. 'It was in 1921 or 1922 that I first became interested in the work of the three Scottish Colourists. The first exhibition of Peploe's which I saw was in Alex Reid & Lefevre's, West George Street, Glasgow. Mr Peploe at that time had an exhibition of flower pictures. I had never seen anything in art similar to these pictures, and I did not understand them. They really startled me for, to my eyes, they were so 'ultra-modern' ... and their brilliant colour against equally strong draperies, were at that time beyond my comprehension' (Ion R. Harrison commenting in T.J. Honeyman, Three Scottish Colourists, 1950, p. 119).

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