John Duncan Fergusson RBA 1874-1961
John Duncan Fergusson,was probably the most international of the four Scottish Colourists and consequently perhaps the most worldly. Born in Edinburgh, he studied at the Edinburgh School of Art before moving to Paris in 1885 to study at the Académie Colarossi. Fergusson returned to Paris every year for the next 10 years and moved there permanently in 1907, where he taught at the Académie de la Palette.
He liked to spend time in cafés, observing life and conversing with Parisian avant-garde artists. Whilst many artists are observers, on the outside looking in, with Fergusson there is the strong impression that, as with Picasso, he is welcoming the viewer to his world and that is an exciting experience
Fergusson moved to Paris is 1907, where he taught at the Académie de la Palette. He liked to spend time in cafés, observing life and conversing with Parisian avant-garde artists. Living in Paris gave him new impetus, and the years 1909 and 1910 were a transitional moment in his career. He became the leader of a group of Anglo-American painters (later to be called ‘Rhythm’) that belonged to one of the most progressive circles of artists in Paris, and in recognition of his contribution to the modern movement he was elected one of the sociétaires of the Salon d’Automne.
In 1909 Fergusson, along with his close friend Samuel Peploe, had moved the location for their summer painting holidays from Normandy to Royan in Southern Brittany. The landscapes produced by both artists here marked a shift from an impressionistic interest in the study of light, characterised by flurried brushwork, towards a more analytical approach, using heightened colour and simplified shapes outlined in black.
The work Fergusson made in the early 1930s reveals an accomplished engagement with the Art Deco movement. In these works, painted towards the end of Fergusson’s most creative period, his subjects are idealised – healthy, strong and optimistic. European society had recovered its confidence, the horrors of the First World War are in the past and the descent into the chaos of another war is as yet unheralded.
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