George Leslie HUNTER 1877 - 1931


George Leslie Hunter was in some respects the least consistent of the Scottish Colourists, yet in many ways he was the most interesting and intriguing. His work is never repetitive and he appears to be constantly searching, primarily through his drawings, for a new approach. Born in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, Hunter was only thirteen years old only when his parents moved to Los Angeles, California in the United States of America. With his early education in the States, he was not exposed to the kind of painting that had influenced the young Scottish Colourists (or for the US audience, Scottish Colorists), Cadell, Peploe or Fergusson: who were seriously in awe of the Glasgow Boys, Arthur Melville and John Lavery.

Hunter started his career as an illustrator, working for several local magazines, but a visit to Paris in 1904 led him to take up oil painting, even though he continued to work as an illustrator for many years. Hunter returned to San Francisco in 1905 to prepare for his first solo exhibition and had begun to amass a significant number of paintings.

Unfortunately everything was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1906. Undeterred, he returned to Glasgow to base himself with his family, (who had returned some years earlier) and continue his self-education as a painter. In 1913 his work was brought to the attention of Alexander Reid, the Glasgow art dealer, who gave him his first one-man show in Scotland. In 1914 he again went to France, returning only after the outbreak of war. During the war, Hunter worked on his Uncle’s farm in Lanarkshire and continued to paint, holding a further one-man exhibition with Alexander Reid in 1916 and, for the first time, at the Royal Glasgow Institute. During this period he was influenced by the modern French painters he had seen in Paris, in particular Matisse, Cezanne and van Gogh.

His pen and ink drawings, very important to his work, reflect the lessons of van Gogh, although Hunter creates something original and very personal. In 1922 he returned to Europe, visiting the French Riviera, Florence and Venice and in the following year showed with Peploe and Cadell at Leicester Galleries, London being joined by Fergusson for the group exhibitions in Paris (1924) and London (1925). His visits to the South of France especially, injected lightness and airiness into his landscapes and the work of Raoul Dufy inspired areas of spontaneous colour in his drawing. Hunter worked mostly in Scotland from 1924-27, painting successfully in Fife and on Loch Lomond, but in 1927 restless and unsettled, he returned to France where he moved from village to village in the South, drawing on the spot, using charcoal, pen and ink, watercolour or pastel.

In 1929 he returned to Glasgow in poor health and was cared for by his sister. His last years were spent working around Loch Lomond and in London where he produced a number of drawings and watercolours of Hyde Park in preparation for a series of canvases of London, which were never completed. Hunter was in New York in 1929 for his exhibition at the Feragail Galleries and in 1931 visited Paris for the highly successful exhibition Les Peintres Ecossais from which the French government bought a landscape of Loch Lomond.

He planned to settle in London, which he believed to be livelier than Glasgow but sadly he died, aged just 54, in December 1931. Text source: The Dictionary of Scottish Painters, (Halsby & Harris) and The Scottish Colourists, (Philip Long).