A testament to Peploe’s mastery of form and colour, Church at Cassis is a striking composition that captures the Church of St. Michel emerging from the surrounding village and landscape in the heat of the mid-morning sun. Painted en plein air, geometric, salmon pink roofs punctuate an idyllic scene inundated with foliage rendered with bold brushstrokes of blue and green. Peploe was inspired by the French avant-garde, the legacy of which is apparent in the present work. The formal composition, which seamlessly unites geometry and nature, is evocative of Cézanne, whose work he became familiar with during a stay in Paris in 1911-12. Fauvism, in particular the work of Matisse, was another source of inspiration for Peploe; however, the experimental, Expressionistic colours of his earlier work has matured into a more naturalistic but nonetheless vibrant palette in Church at Cassis.
Peploe visited Cassis for the first time in the summer of 1913 with his wife, Margaret, and son, Willy, following an invitation from J.D. Fergusson and Anne Estelle Rice. Although he had visited France before in 1904, also with J.D. Fergusson, Peploe was enraptured by the effects of the Mediterranean light in Cassis, which he had never encountered before in his native Scotland or travels in Northern Europe. He subsequently returned in 1924 with fellow Scottish Colourist, Francis Cadell, which is when Church at Cassis was painted. It was exhibited four years later as the leading work in Peploe’s maiden solo exhibition in the United States at the C.W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, New York, where it adorned the cover of the exhibition catalogue. Further trips to Cassis were made in 1928 and 1930 in which he continued to produce individual depictions of Cassis by incorporating the technical qualities of the Post-Impressionists with his Scottish heritage.