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Samuel J Peploe

Samuel J Peploe was one member of a group of four painters, dubbed the 'Scottish Colourists', who plied their trade in early part of the 20th century. The Colourists never existed as a formal group, though they certainly knew each other and spent time painting together. They were only grouped and tagged with the label after three of them had died but their legacy to Scottish art seems to grow in importance with each passing year.


Peploe is my favourite of the four, due mainly to his painting 'The Girl In White', painted in 1906. There are many of his paintings in the Kelvingrove, and those of his three Colourist colleagues, John Duncan Fergusson, Francis C B Cadell, and George Leslie Hunter but sadly The Girl in White, now held in a private collection, is not amongst them. There is however, a large reproduction of the painting which I always make a point of looking out when I visit.



What I admire about this painting is Peploe's total confidence in what he is doing and his apparent economy of effort. Most of the brushstrokes are visible. He loaded his brushes thickly and painted lush, bold marks. The shapes and curves of the lady's figure are defined in a minimal number of strokes, not one of them out of place, not one of them superfluous, and each one essential to the overall composition. Though she is wearing white, relatively few of the strokes are actually made in white. 


You get the impression looking at this painting that the execution of it must have taken no more than fifteen minutes. And this was very much Peploe's style. He would agonise over a painting for an age before picking up a brush. Only when he had worked everything out in his head did he commit paint to the canvas. The end result was often a painting that needed no touching up or filling in, no reworking, with no endless fiddling by the artist visible. Instead what you get with a Peploe is a painting full of spontaneity and life, with all the energy and vigour of the creative process left intact. Samuel J Peploe, a true genius and someone whose reputation steadily grows with the passage of time.


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