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The Fergusson Gallery is home to the largest collection of work by Scottish artist John Duncan Fergusson, more widely known as one of a group of four artists called ‘The Scottish Colourists’. The collection was given to Perth & Kinross Council by the J. D. Fergusson Art Foundation which had been established by his wife, the pioneering dancer, Margaret Morris, in 1963. The Gallery opened in 1992 and celebrates its 30th birthday this year.


Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Amy Fairley, Collections Officer at Culture Perth & Kinross, on 23rd February 2022. You can find a recording at: https://youtu.be/LP-5kDrRDws

Artists featured in this Curation: John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
6 artworks
  • In order to follow in the footsteps of the Impressionists, Fergusson began painting outdoors. He converted an old cigar box into a portable paint box, which could hold small panels, paints and cut-down brushes, with the lid acting as a palette. This allowed him the freedom to capture scenes spontaneously. The collection holds around twenty of these small panels, including this self-portrait. It is one of his first studies in oil paint, marking his transition away from watercolour. After settling in Paris in 1907 Fergusson regularly sketched portraits of himself and painted a number of ambitious self portraits in oil.

    Red Braces: Self Portrait c.1900
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on board
    H 11.5 x W 14 cm
    Perth & Kinross Council
    Red Braces: Self Portrait
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council

  • During the early 1900s, Fergusson displayed a keen interest in portraiture. Many of Fergusson’s early portraits were based on his family or himself. In around 1904, Fergusson embarked on a series of impressive, full-length portraits. This, and similar examples, draw comparisons with works by Manet, Whistler and John Singer Sargent. The sitter for this work was Jean Maconochie, who sat for Fergusson on a number of occasions. In his portraits, Fergusson expressed the need for emotional accuracy, declaring “Drawing is a matter of expressing form as you feel it.”

    The White Dress: Portrait of Jean (Jean Maconochie) 1904
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on canvas
    H 178 x W 120.5 cm
    Perth & Kinross Council
    The White Dress: Portrait of Jean (Jean Maconochie)
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council

  • In 1907, Fergusson made the permanent move to Paris. Like many of his contemporaries, he was attracted by the freedom of outlook and the unique atmosphere found there, which lent itself to the creation of a new and vibrant artistic scene. In 1910, Fergusson began creating a series of striking, monumental nudes. The bold, forceful character of these works marks the culmination of a style indebted to the work of the Fauves, which Fergusson had been developing since 1907. His use of bright colour, dark outline and simplified form showed an obvious understanding and sympathy with the Fauves.

    At My Studio Window 1910
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on canvas
    H 157.5 x W 123 cm
    Perth & Kinross Council
    At My Studio Window
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council

  • Fergusson was not involved in active military service during the First World War and was never an official war artist. However, in 1918 and with the support of P.G. Konody, the art critic of The Observer, a six week commission was proposed by the Ministry of Information’s propaganda and record department, to produce a series of paintings based on Portsmouth Dockyard. The resulting works show a new concern for geometry and a more precise, disciplined method of applying paint. The technique of blocking in colour using square-ended brushes in series of angled strokes, owes much to Paul Cézanne.

    Blue Submarine: Portsmouth Harbour 1918
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on canvas
    H 61 x W 56 cm
    Perth & Kinross Council
    Blue Submarine: Portsmouth Harbour
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council

  • This painting depicts the blissful summer that Fergusson spent with his partner, the dance pioneer, Margaret Morris, in Antibes in 1914. As the date and title of this painting show, Fergusson often worked from sketches or memories that he had stored away for many years. Morris provided a written account to this nostalgic image, recalling: “the wonder of the summer at the Cap d'Antibes passes all description, Fergus had everything organised...I remember standing on the tiny balcony and saying to myself - nothing can ever be as perfect as this.” The visit was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 which forced the couple to return to Britain.

    Summer, 1914 (Margaret Morris, 1891–1980) 1934
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on canvas
    H 88 x W 113.5 cm
    Perth & Kinross Council
    Summer, 1914 (Margaret Morris, 1891–1980)
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council

  • Fergusson began work on this ambitious late work during the 1940's basing Danu, the Celtic Mother of the Gods, on Morris, wearing a costume she had designed for a performance with her Celtic Ballet. According to Fergusson, this canvas had lain blank in his studio for some twenty years, waiting for the inspiration of something ‘special and mystical’ to paint on it. Fergusson strongly believed that the Celtic peoples were the most creative. He stressed the importance of his own Highland roots and claimed his own inherent Celticism.

    Danu, Mother of the Gods (Margaret Morris, 1891–1980) 1952
    John Duncan Fergusson (1874–1961)
    Oil on canvas
    H 184 x W 123 cm
    Perth & Kinross Council
    Danu, Mother of the Gods (Margaret Morris, 1891–1980)
    © The Fergusson Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council, Scotland. Photo credit: Perth & Kinross Council