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John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
John Duncan Fergusson was born on 9 March 1874, at 7 Crown Street, Edinburgh, the eldest of four children to John Fergusson. After receiving his edcuation at the Royal High School he decided to become a Naval Surgeon, but failed to matriculate at the University or The Royal College of Surgeons, and therefore gave up the idea of medicine in order to devote himself to art.
Fergusson spent his early career away from Scotland, travelling by tramp steamer to Spain and Morocco. In 1898 on a visit to Paris it is recorded that he was impressed by the works of Bonington at the Louvre and the Impressionists in the Salle Callebotte in the Luxembourg. Having painted numerous views of Peebles, Paris and Edinburgh in the period 1899 to 1902, he was elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1903. In that same year, he returned to France with Samuel John Peploe, spending the summer sketching at the resorts of Paris-Plage and Le Touquet.
In 1905 Fergusson decided to settle and work in Paris, at a time when the spontaneous work and brilliant colour of Fauvism was strongly influencing many artists. Although not overwhelmed by this movement his pictures show that it did brighten the palette and introduced a new boldness of line and simplicity of form. It was around this time that he met the artist Anne Estelle Rice, an Irish-American from Philadelphia who, with her companion, Elizabeth Bryden, appears in Fergusson's works.
In 1910, his work developed a new individual character and the introduction of greater design is incorporated with a recurring pattern of interrelated colours. The following year he became deeply involved with the launching of the periodical Rhythm, later becoming the editor.
In 1913 Fergusson met his future wife, Margaret Morris, and together with S.J. Peploe visited Cassis. At the outbreak of war in 1914, they returned to London where Fergusson was appointed a War Artist with the Royal Navy. It is during this period that his style changed again; it became more simplified, and in place of sensuality, a hardness which took on a cubist tendancy.
Fergusson continued to live in London until 1929, making several visits to Scotland and France, and exhibiting in New York in 1926 and 1928. In the later part of 1929 he returned to Paris to settle for the second time; he was to remain there until the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940 with his wife, Margaret Morris, he took a studio at 4 Clouston Street, Glasgow.
In 1948 a retrospective exhibition opened in Glasgow, and in 1950 he was made honorary L.L.D. of the University of Stirling, where he lived until his death on 30 January 1961.
It was Dunoyer de Segonzac who wrote of Fergusson, 'His art is a deep and pure expression of his pure love of life'.