In July we took a few weeks vacation back to Britain and also enjoyed a few days in the Netherlands. As we moved around from one city to the next visiting friends and family, whenever I was able to I took the opportunity to visit the local art museums and galleries. Over the next few days and weeks I’m going to write about each one… Here’s the first.
Aberdeen Art Gallery
When back in my home town of Aberdeen (Scotland), I visited the art museum; a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. I remember regularly visiting this gallery throughout my childhood and teenage years. Without doubt it’s the place that I was first exposed to art and I suspect I have my mother to thank for that. One memory that sticks in my head from those childhood years, is my mother drawing us close to a painting and commenting that it was so well painted you could almost touch it. Then shockingly she reached out and actually touched the canvas, before moment later being yelled at by the guard!
This was the painting, you'll notice it now hangs behind glass. My mother will be disappointed! :-)
The museum holds so many memories like this for me, as well as countless memorable paintings, (or at least paintings that resonate with me). They have a fine eclectic selection of works with one painting from most of the major artists you can think of (well within reason). They also have a nice selection of Scottish and British artists, including of course, a number of paintings by my favorite Scottish artist 'Joan Eardley'.
Brother and Sister by J Eardley
You might enjoy this post from last time I was in Britain and I visited her old studio? http://www.anguswilsonstudio.blogspot.com/2011/06/visiting-watchie.html
The reason for visiting the gallery was a visiting Peploe show. The artist was one of the famed ‘Scottish colorists’, and many would say the strongest and the best. I'm particularly fond of his early and mid-career paintings, and they had good examples within three large exhibition rooms. They also exhibited central glass cabinets, with a variety of interesting items, such as one of his palettes*, sketch books, some of his brushes and a selection of items that he used for his still lifes e.g. a small plaster statue, a Chinese vase etc.
(*I have always gotten a kick out of seeing famous artists palettes, but I’m never quite sure why?)
In his early career, he painted with strong loose brush strokes thick with paint and there’s a wonderful confident elegance to his brushwork and the thick luster to the paint. The colors in these are pretty monochromatic and predominantly muted. But they’re beautiful to look at and a testament to his ability with paint.
During his mid-career, he spent time with John Fergusson in Paris and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Monet and Picasso. This Parisian influence breathed life into his ‘drab’ palette, adding an impressionist colorist scheme. You can also see an advancement of more developed and dynamic compositions. During this period his brushwork also tightens, which I feel is a shame; but the additions of color and composition make for interesting and really beautiful work.
In the final phase of his lifes work I feel he pulled back a little on palette, the colors became more muted in their ranges; perhaps what some may describe as ‘pastel-like’ in tone. The brushwork though still loose is increasingly measured (& careful). Many prefer this final period, but for me some of the life or energy has been lost. The once loose brush strokes and strong color schemes have has been replaced with something overly considered and careful; a skilled painter measuring his trade, but perhaps lacking in passion?
The only item I may have liked to add to this exhibition would have been the addition of a few works by other Scottish colorists to hang alongside Peploes paintings. This I feel would have fleshed out and framed his life, illustrating his friendships/peers and influences? Though most would agree he was the leader and strongest painter of the Scottish colorist, he is still firmly linked to them, and therefore hard to divorce from the movement.
The exhibition was however one of the highlights of my trip. There was a wonderful selection of his work, it was well lit, and well presented.