Still life of mixed roses in Chinese vase signed 'Peploe' (lower left) oil on canvas 45.5 x 40.5 cm. (17 15/16 x 15 15/16 in.)
PROVENANCE: Sir William MacTaggart PRSA RA Thence by family descent With Forrest McKay, Edinburgh, May 1991, where purchased by the present owner
There was no sustained tradition of still life painting in British art before the emergence of the Scottish Colourists circa 1900. However in Scotland there had been notable exceptions, such as Stuart Park's series of sumptuous rose paintings executed in the 1880s. The Colourists picked up on this subject matter, and the rich palette of the Glasgow School in the 1890s, and Peploe and Hunter in particular immersed themselves in the genre. The former set himself the task of painting the perfect still life, painstakingly setting up compositions featuring flowers and favourite motifs such as the Chinese vase, fan, crockery and drapery evident in this picture. Many of the works from the classic period are variations on a theme, as the artist explored the relationships and contrasts between form and space, colour and tone, nature and design.
Early still lifes by Peploe, and indeed Hunter and Fergusson, were on a small scale and featured everyday objects against a dark background, much influenced by Manet or the Dutch masters. However during the war, and after his return from France, the relatively conservative Peploe became more experimental, employing more vibrant colour and dramatic form. This transitional work, executed circa 1920, has an arresting red ground and employs the typical cropped forms, flattened picture space and motifs which are hallmarks of his most characteristic pictures. His palette, though, would become chalky and the colour more restrained post 1920.