The highly popular Scottish Colourist Series of exhibitions concludes with a retrospective of the work of J. D. Fergusson, one of the most influential Scottish painters of the 20th century. In this major survey of the artist’s career, paintings and sculptures will be shown alongside archive material relating to his life and work. Loans have been secured from throughout the UK, including many from private collections, which have rarely, if ever, been exhibited before.
The exhibition will explore Fergusson’s early emergence as a Colourist; his time in Paris in the 1910s, where he learned from Fauve artists such as Matisse and Derain, and focus on his life in Glasgow, where, together with his wife Margaret Morrison, he settled and founded the influential meeting and exhibiting society, the New Art Club.
John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961) is one of the four artists known collectively as the Scottish Colourists (the others are F. C B. Cadell, G. L. Hunter and S. J. Peploe). He was born in Leith near Edinburgh and was essentially self-taught. His first trip to Paris, then the undisputed capital of the art world, is thought to have been in 1897. He returned repeatedly, sometimes with Peploe with whom he painted in the south and north west of France from 1904, before moving to the French capital in 1907. Fergusson soon became intimately involved with the avant-garde scene and began exhibiting at the progressive Salon d’Automne that year. More than any of his Scottish contemporaries, Fergusson assimilated and developed the latest developments in French painting.
In 1913 Fergusson met the dance pioneer Margaret Morris (1891-1980) who became his life-long partner. He settled in Cap d’Antibes, but on the outbreak of the First World War joined Morris in Chelsea, London. She established The Margaret Morris Club which became an important gathering place for artists, writers and composers. The couple remained in the English capital until 1929 whilst Fergusson exhibited in Paris, London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, sometimes in the company of Cadell, Hunter and Peploe. In 1929 Fergusson returned to Paris (Morris remained based in London) and once more became involved in Anglo-American art circles.
The Second World War prompted the couple to move to Glasgow in 1939. They galvanized the city’s arts scene, becoming founder members of the meeting and exhibiting society the New Art Club and of its off-shoot the New Scottish Group. During the 1950s they continued to spend long periods in the south of France, where Morris’s creative dance movements and the students at her Summer Schools continued to be one of Fergusson’s main sources of inspiration.
Fergusson died in 1961, the longest-lived of the Scottish Colourists. A touring memorial exhibition began that year at the Royal Scottish Academy and in 1963 the J. D. Fergusson Art Foundation was formed by Margaret Morris to administer the artist’s estate. In 1992 The Fergusson Gallery, Perth was established with a gift of holdings from the Foundation.
The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated publication, containing essays by Elizabeth Cumming, Sheila McGregor and Alice Strang.
This exhibition is a partnership between the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh and The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council.