The Scottish Colourists

Discover four artists who breathed new life into the Scottish art scene in the early 20th century

The Blue Fan (About 1922) by Francis Campbell Boileau CadellNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Who were they?

The term ‘Scottish Colourists’ describes a group of four painters, Samuel John Peploe,  Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, Leslie Hunter and JD Fergusson, who breathed new life into the Scottish art scene in the early 20th century. 

Reflections, Balloch (About 1929 - 1930) by George Leslie HunterNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Though they were not a cohesive artistic movement, their works are characterised by simplified forms, expressive brushwork and vibrant colour, inspired by contemporary French and Scottish art. 

Iona Landscape: Rocks (About 1925 - 1927) by Samuel John PeploeNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Studying in Edinburgh

Three of the four members first received formal art training in Edinburgh; Peploe and Fergusson studied at the Trustees Academy, while Cadell was taught at the Royal Scottish Academy Life School. 

Still Life (About 1913) by Samuel John PeploeNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

However, they were frustrated with the conservatism of the teaching they received, and perhaps even with their surrounding environment.

From the Calcina Hotel (1910) by Francis Campbell Boileau CadellNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

The French Connection

Each Scottish Colourist followed their own career paths, but between them they also shared much common ground. 

Portrait of a Lady in Black (About 1921) by Francis Campbell Boileau CadellNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

They were all born in Scotland in the 1870s to middle class families, and each visited France to experience the burgeoning avant-garde first hand, returning to Scotland brimming with new ideas.

Boats at Royan (1910) by Samuel John PeploeNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Influences came from Manet, the Impressionists, Cezanne, Matisse and the Fauves, with the Colourists exploring modulations of light, shade and atmospheric effects, often through painting en plein air

Iona Landscape: Rocks (About 1925 - 1927) by Samuel John PeploeNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Painting in Iona

Peploe first painted on the island of Iona in 1920 with fellow Scottish Colourist  Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, and the two artists returned together most summers. 

Barra (1903) by Samuel John PeploeNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

People was particularly fond of the rocky northern end of the island and its views towards Mull. 

Iona Croft (mid-1920s) by Francis Campbell Boileau CadellNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Cadell first visited the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in 1912.  His paintings show everyday life on the island such as the brightly-roofed building seen here, and he felt the light was of the same quality as that in the south of France. 

Still Life (About 1920 - 1925) by George Leslie HunterNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Legacy

Each of the Scottish Colourists achieved recognition during their lifetimes but fell out of favour by World War II, before being rediscovered fully in the 1950s. 

Pink Roses, Chinese Vase (About 1916 - 1920) by Samuel John PeploeNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

By the 1980s they were widely recognised for their contribution to Scottish art, fusing elements of Scottish heritage and the Glasgow School style with various aspects of the Parisian avant-garde. In doing so they breathed new life into Scottish art, leading the way for the next generation of artists.

Credits: Story

National Galleries of Scotland

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