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The Scottish Colourist: J.D. Fergusson

[ Exhibition )

A woman wearing a pale blue dress lounges in a chair outside, surrounded by lush green leaves. Another woman in a red dress stands in the background.

J. D. Fergusson, Summer, 1914 (Margaret Morris, 1891–1980), 1934, Oil on canvas (76.2 x 66 cm), The Fergusson Gallery, Perth & Kinross Council; presented by the J. D. Fergusson Art Foundation 1991 © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council

One of the four artists known collectively as the Scottish Colourists, John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961) was at the forefront of the introduction of modern art into Britain.

This was the first major retrospective of Fergusson’s work mounted in almost 50 years. The exhibition included paintings and sculptures from throughout his career, showing how he combined a knowledge of contemporary French art with the painterly traditions of Scotland.

Fergusson is most celebrated for his depictions of women. Images of Edwardian elegance in the early 1900s gave way to startling nudes in Paris from 1910. After meeting the dance pioneer Margaret Morris in 1913, she and her pupils became a source of inspiration for the rest of Fergusson’s life.

Less well-known are the sculptures which Fergusson made and exhibited for over 35 years. He also painted landscapes throughout his career, in Scotland, England and France. The series based on Portsmouth Docks in 1918 and the Scottish Highlands in 1922 are particularly important.

Fergusson was born in Leith, near Edinburgh. He lived in Paris and London between 1907 and 1939, before settling in Glasgow, where he died in 1961. His solo exhibitions spanned over fifty years, from London in 1905 to Glasgow in 1957, including three held in America. Fergusson was a tireless champion of contemporary art and artists, through discussion groups, the written word, exhibiting societies and personal support.

This exhibition was a partnership between the National Galleries of Scotland and The Fergusson Gallery. An illustrated catalogue, based on new research, was published to coincide with the exhibition. Available to buy from Pallant Bookshop.

What the press said

Can a Scottish colourist be reinvented as a British modernist, or even a European pioneer? This superb retrospective…brings a fresh and lively voice to the still contested history of British art between 1900 and 1920.

Jackie Wullschlager, FT Life & Arts

This atmospheric exhibition takes us to the many times and places of Fergusson’s life. It’s a worthy survey of a talented painter.

Mark Hudson, Mail on Sunday

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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