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Samuel John PEPLOE 1871 - 1935

RSA

Biography

Peploe was a passionate and serious artist who devoted himself to work but also had powerful influence on a surprisingly wide circle of people, including many artists of the next generation. Born in Edinburgh and educated at the Collegate School in Charlotte Square, he had good academic ability but no interest in the professions, preferring to walk, sail or sketch.

By 1893 he was enrolled for classes at the Trustees Academy (the forerunner to Edinburgh School of Art) and the following year was in Paris at the Académie Julian under the neo classicist, William Bourgereau and later at the Académie Colarossi. A long period of study nurtured his natural ability and helped him perfect an early style based on Dutch masters, particularly Franz Hals, and Edouard Manet. He began a lifelong habit of taking painting trips to northern France and the Western Isles, accompanied by J D Fergusson whom he had met in Paris. He was successful in exhibiting his work and regularly submitted paintings to the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Glasgow Institute and the Society of Scottish Artists.

His first one-man show was held at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in 1903. By 1906 his earlier still life and figure paintings, characterised by dark backgrounds, gave way to paler colours, greys and pinks. This was in part due to a move to a new lighter studio in the East end of Edinburgh at York Place, from his previous west-end base at Shandwick Place. His second exhibition in 1909 was successful but his eyes were turning to Paris and the next year, he moved there with his new wife, Margaret MacKay, whom he had met on a painting trip to the Isle of Barra in 1894. France liberated his palette and on his return to Edinburgh in 1912 with dozens of paintings and a young son, Willie, the new work proved to be much too advanced for the city’s audience and his original dealer. Unperturbed, Peploe put on his own show at the New Gallery in Shandwick Place, where the Society of Eight (including Cadell, John Lavery and James Paterson) had their inaugural exhibition in the same year.

For the next fifteen years Peploe retained a brilliant palette, evolving a mature style containing elements of Cezanne and Matisse. By the late 1920s he had reverted to a more sonorous tonal painting, still enlivened by brilliant colour chords, but weightier and cooler. In 1933 he taught two terms at Edinburgh College of Art making quite an impact. Best known for his still life paintings of roses or tulips, Peploe had a wide range of subjects including figure and landscape painting.

From 1914 he was a regular visitor to Dumfries and Galloway, particularly Kirkcudbright and also from 1919 onwards to the isles of Iona. On the recommendation of Cadell he visited Cassis in the South of France in 1924, and returned in 1928 and 1930. His landscapes have a conviction and a passion, which belie the rather diffident, shy public face of the artist. His family and closest friends knew a wickedly funny, compassionate and sincere man.

Currently on exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery, The Scottish Colourist Series: SJ Peploe 3rd November 2012 − 23rd June 2013
 

Text source: Samuel Peploe (Guy Peploe, S J Peploe’s grandson); the Dictionary of Scottish Painters, (Halsby & Harris) and The Scottish Colourists, (Philip Long).