Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Raises Cultural Bar

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937), Marble Quarry, Iona, early 20th century oil

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘A Collector’s Passion – Scottish Oils and Watercolours’ is the most significant in the 2019 Horsham District Council’s Year of Culture.

The exhibition explores a local collector’s passion for Scottish pictures. There is a tremendous quality of patronage in them being loaned for the public to see.
Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Curator Jeremy Knight says “This very private collector was awarded the art prize by his artist teacher Archie Watt whilst growing up in south-west Scotland and this inspired his passion for art and collecting. It’s the fantastic colours in Scottish art which delights him.” Three of Archie Watt’s paintings are on show.

The qualities of patronage are also apparent in the collection with leading contemporary Scottish artists.

Alongside an exquisite Venetian inspired oil by Anne Redpath my eye is drawn to an important group of paintings by the four Scottish Colourists FCB Cadell, GL Hunter, SJ Peploe and JD Fergusson. They painted landscapes, still lifes and interiors, influenced by their direct contact with French Post-Impressionism and their early knowledge of the work of Matisse and the Fauvres. Their paintings were amongst the most progressive in early 20th century British art and they developed an international following.

FCB Cadell first visited the Hebridean island of Iona in 1912 and would return most summers, usually to paint outside. The cool tonalities of the work Cadell produced on Iona in the 1920s contrasts with the sharp dissonance of colour employed in his studio paintings of the same date. The Iona landscape you see here is filled with light and movement, the nature of the coastline accentuated in the stylized blocks of colour which define the composition. The effect is moving and beautiful.

GL Hunter used a brush loaded with paint, combining broad strokes with a skilful manipulation of strong warm and cool colours in the Still Life with Flowers and Fruit.

Some twenty Scottish paintings, including contemporary works, are included in the exhibition.

George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931), Still life with Flowers and Fruit, early 20th century oil

‘A Collector’s Passion – Scottish Oils and Watercolours’ once again raises the cultural bar of the visual arts in the Horsham District. I hope that the growing reputation of the Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery will continue to attract loans and work of this quality to its exhibitions and permanent collection. A cultural offering at this level lends so much to the reputation, prosperity and quality of life of the Horsham District. Horsham District Council has an important ongoing role in this and I hope our councillors will continue to build on their success. They, Jeremy Knight and this passionate collector are deserving of our thanks.

It is exciting to see such a body of work exhibited in Horsham. The exhibition runs until 26th October 2019 and entrance is free of charge. For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Scottish Colourist J.D. Fergusson at Pallant House Gallery

Fergusson in his studio
'J.D. Fergusson in his studio at 4 Clouston Street, Glasgow’, circa 1955, © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland

John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961) is known as one of the four ‘Scottish Colourists’, along with F.C.B. Cadell, G.L. Hunter and S.J. Peploe. Fergusson’s career, however, was much more international than those of his peers. He spent much of his adult life in France and England, which explains his association with the European modern art world and its influence on his work. He has been described as one of the leading figures of Celtic Modernism. In common with his fellow Scottish Colourists, Fergusson painted still lifes, landscapes and interiors, but he was always drawn to the female form.

J.D. Fergusson, ‘Bathing Boxes and Tents at St Palais’, 1910, oil on board, presented by the J.D. Fergusson Art Foundation, 1991, © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland
J.D. Fergusson, ‘Hortensia’, 1910, oil on canvas, bequeathed by Eric Linklater, 1976, The University of Aberdeen Museums, © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland

Living in Paris between 1907 and 1913, Fergusson found himself at the centre of the birth of modern Western art. It was while he was in Paris that he made his name.

The restrained quality of his work from this period is in sympathy with the new Fauve approach. Fauvism describes a group of early twentieth century artists, including Henri Matisse and André Derain, who emphasised strong colour and painterly qualities over representationalism and Impressionism, as shown in ‘Bathing Boxes and Tents at St Palais’, painted in 1910.

The Fauvist simplicity of his blocked-in colour gives Fergusson’s art a more Expressionist edge. Take, for example, ‘Hortensia’, painted in 1910. The subtle composition gifts this painting with informality and the black edging finely balances the figure. His paintings increasingly recorded a response to a particular place, a moment, and as they did so, they became more vibrant and decorative.

J.D. Fergusson, ‘Danu, Mother of the Gods’, 1952, oil on canvas, on loan to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland

The 1930s begun triumphantly for Fergusson when ‘Déesse de la Rivière’ was purchased for the French National Collection. But with the outbreak of war in in 1939, he and his lifelong partner, Margaret Morris, moved to Glasgow. They had met each other in Paris in 1913. The photograph shows Fergusson in his studio in Glasgow in the 1950s; in the corner you can see ‘Danu, Mother of the Gods’. Fergusson often painted stylised visions paying homage to his Celtic roots, like this work from 1952. Here Danu, the mother goddess worshipped by the first Celtic tribes to invade Ireland, is depicted in dramatic pose. The handling of paint, colour and strong composition is typical of this artist’s hand.

Fergusson and Morris co-founded the New Art Club and the New Scottish Group. These exhibiting and discussion societies were at the heart of the arts revival in Glasgow at the time. Fergusson remained a generous man and went to great lengths to help other artists and promote modern art. His generosity is apparent in his work.

J.D. Fergusson’s paintings, with their dazzling palette and dramatic handling of subjects, still capture and delight the viewer’s attention. It is a rare treat to see such a body of work exhibited outside Scotland. The exhibition runs until 19th October 2014. For more information go to www.pallant.org.uk.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 6th August 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.