Friday, 16 November 2012

Peploe exhibition - Portland Gallery, London

14thNovember 2012

I called up the Portland Gallery in advance to check out opening times, got instructions on how to get there and finding the gallery, was taken to the Peploe pictures which are on show until 29th November. I was guided and introduced to some of the landscapes from Barra and the Hebrides and could make out the machair-traigh on Barra.

The two Barra paintings are hung together. On top is the Barra beach showing a scene from the Atlantic side of the island. The west coast beaches of the Outer Hebrides are renowned for their shimmering sand. Barra is the southern end of the archipelago. Peploe met his future wife Margaret Mackay, who was from Loch Boisdale (the next main island north in the chain), on one of his trips to the island. The lower painting has some rolling hills. Having been to the beaches of the Outer Hebrides many times, I recognise this scene.

Landscape in the Hebrides
signed (verso)
Oil on panel
6 x 9 ins
Painted circa 1903

There are some street scenes from Paris and Brittany and still life paintings. While left to enjoy them I was invited to ask the curator of the exhibition, Emily Johnston, if I had any questions.

After my studying of the pictures I was introduced to Emily who took me round and we discussed some of the pictures. Peploe’s use of colour is something he is obviously famous for, though it was almost the sparing use of colour in some examples which stood out. Certainly the still life pictures stand out clearly with interesting geometries for the fruit and angles of the other objects in these compositions.

Still Life with Wine Decanter, Glass and Apples
Signed (lower left)
Oil on canvas
12.5 x 15.5 ins
Painted circa 1905

I discussed the coffee pot picture with Emily, explaining how much I could discern and detect. We then moved on to a picture which had attracted my attention.

While Peploe’s use of colour is outstanding, this picture titled By Firelight stood out for me. It was painted around 1908, is oil on canvas and measures 20 x 16 inches. It shows a woman seated by a fire, although the fire itself is not shown. Instead, a pink tinge on the white can just about be discerned. When I went back to this painting I put on my sunglasses and it is amazing the difference this makes. I noticed this effect with some of the Symbolist Landscapes in Edinburgh in the summer.

Rocks, Iona
Oil on board
15 x 18 ins
Painted circa 1920

Peploe’s picture of Iona shows the rocks and the water in clarity of lines though the colours are almost verging on being suggested. This picture is titled Rocks, Iona and was painted around 1920. It is oil on panel and measures 15 x 18 inches. I went to Iona a lot in the 1970s and have been back once since I lost my sight. The island of Iona is off the coast of Mull and has interesting geology and had a marble quarry, the remains of which can still be visited.

At the end of my visit, I bought the sales catalogue which has some interesting biographical notes as well as the provenance of the pictures. For reference, the paintings which I found attractive are listed below:

There are two small pictures of scenes in the Hebrides, one on a Barra beach. The first is titled Landscape in the Hebrides and was painted around 1903. It is oil on panel and measures 6 x 9 inches. The second, called Barra and painted around the same time, is also oil on panel and measures 6 ½ x 9 ½ inches.

A Street in Paris painted around 1911. It is oil on panel and measures 10 ½ x 14 inches.

The Silver Coffee Pot painted in 1904. It is oil on panel and measures 10 x 16 inches.

Ile de Brehat, Brittany painted around 1911. It is oil on canvas board and measures 13 x 16 ins.

Roses painted around 1920. It is oil on panel and measures 16 x 12 ins.

White Roses and Fruit painted around 1921. It is oil on canvas and measures 20 x 16 ins.

The Portland Gallery has a continuing programme of exhibitions and sales and the catalogues are a mine of information. The gallery has the catalogue for the Peploe sale online and this can be viewed on

There is also an exhibition of paintings by Oliver Akers Douglas who paints landscapes in the field.  (

Many thanks to the staff of the Portland Gallery and to Emily Johnston for discussing and describing these pictures and also for sending me the three images used in this post.  Pictures credit: Portland Gallery, London.

There is an exhibition on Peploe currently on in Edinburgh. Details are as follows:
The Scottish Colourist Series: S.J. Peploe
3rd November 2012 - 23 June 2013
Modern Two (Scottish Gallery of Modern Art)
More information can be found on: