Peploe’s move to a new studio in 1917 heralded another change of direction as he embarked on a quest to achieve the perfect still-life. His meticulous arrangements of tulips, roses, fabrics and other stylish props often took days to achieve but only hours to paint on canvasses primed with an absorbent gesso ground, which prevented re-working. His technical accomplishment and profound understanding of the power of colour brought him commercial and critical success and lasting fame.
Samuel John Peploe
Oil on canvas
50.8 × 40.6 cm
60 × 70 cm
Signed bottom right
Samuel John Peploe RA, 1871-1935
Born in Edinburgh, the son of a banker, the young Samuel Peploe resisted a career in the law to spend four years attending art schools divided between the Royal Scottish Academy and the Académie Julian in Paris. Settling in Edinburgh in the early 1900s, Peploe established his reputation as a painter of still lives and innovative portraits influenced by the breakthrough early moderns, Édouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler.
Meanwhile his love of France and friendship with J.D. Fergusson led to annual visits across the Channel. Peploe wrote admiringly of the French: ‘They always remind me of the Gaelic- so frank and open…They so enjoy life largely in an animal way.’ He spoke from experience as his long-term girlfriend and future wife, Margaret Mackay, was Gaelic, hailing from the Isle of Barra.
The revolutionary Fauve painters who took Europe by storm in 1905 unlocked the reserved Scot’s wild side. Peploe’s move to Paris with his family in 1910 inspired a series radical ‘colourist’ paintings, which were deemed too difficult by his Edinburgh dealer, who promptly dropped him.
Unfit for military service, Peploe’s wartime paintings reveal the influence of Cézanne. The advent of peace saw his resurgence as a colourist establishing his reputation as a master of still lifes and interiors of theatrical stillness and beauty. Almost every year he visited Iona with Cadell producing seascapes which capture the unique clarity of Scottish light.
By the time of his death in 1935, aged 66, Peploe was hailed as ‘the real leader of the forward movement in Scotland.’