John Duncan Fergusson, Rhythm, 1911, Oil on canvas, University of Stirling presented by Margaret Morris and J.D. Fergusson Art Foundation 1968, © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland
In the years preceding the First World War, Fergusson and Rice became leading figures in celebrated group of Anglo-American painters based in Paris, named the ‘Rhythmists' after the progressive art journal Rhythm of which Fergusson was founding Art Editor. In about 1910 Fergusson embarked on a series of female nudes which are amongst the most original paintings in British art of the period. In 1913 he left Rice for the dance pioneer Margaret Morris, who became his life-long partner.
Late in 1913, Fergusson declared that he ‘wanted more sun, more colour' and moved to the Cap d'Antibes. On learning of the outbreak of the war he moved to London, where Morris was based. Through the Margaret Morris Club, which she ran alongside her dance school and theatre, Fergusson became immersed in the London avant-garde scene. He became involved with set and costume design for Morris's productions and taught painting to her pupils.
Fergusson described patriotism as ‘the most over-rated of vices'. In order to avoid conscription, in July 1918 he was granted permission ‘to go to Portsmouth to gather impressions for painting a picture' by the Admiralty. His resultant sketches led to a series of paintings in which he experimented with Vorticism. The end of the war enabled him to visit France once again, his joy at which is evident in works such as ‘Christmas Time in the South of France ‘of 1922.