What: A core group of four artists – John Duncan Fergusson, Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe and George Leslie Hunter – the Scottish Colourists eschewed London in the early 1900s in favour of Paris. Influenced by the likes of Monet, Matisse and Cézanne, they adopted the use of strong, vibrant colour, which they combined with more painterly traditions of Scottish art to produce loosely executed landscapes, still lifes, interiors and portraits. When their work was first shown during the 1920s and 1930s it failed to make a significant impact, and was not to become truly sought after for another half century. Peploe, Cadell and Hunter all died in the 1930s; Fergusson lived until shortly before his 89th birthday in 1961.
Need to know: The Scottish Colourists remained undervalued until the 1980s, when an interest from buyers outside Scotland – previously the main market – helped to boost prices. In 1988, Christie’s Glasgow achieved a record £506,000 for Peploe’s “Girl in White”. After this, prices dropped back to earlier levels and have strengthened again only relatively recently. In May, Christie’s London sold Peploe’s “Still Life With Coffee Pot” for a premium-inclusive £937,250 – the most ever paid for a Scottish painting at auction.
Top tips: Buy the best you can afford – collectors are selective in the mid-range. Try to buy typical examples of each artist’s work: a Peploe still life with flowers, a Fergusson portrait, or a Cadell interior. Oil paintings have the highest value, but watercolours and pencil drawings offer an affordable start, with prices from £2,000.
Pitfalls: Unless you buy from a reputable source, there is a possibility that a painting by a lesser artist might be passed off as the work of one of the Scottish Colourists. As the Scottish Colourists often worked quickly and en plein air, painting on to a wet ground, there can be paint shrinkage and cracking. Look for works that are stable and not heavily restored.
Forthcoming sale: Wednesday (August 31) at 6pm. Bonhams, 22 Queen Street, Edinburgh. +44 (0)131 225 2266. Catalogue online at www.bonhams.com
Renowned dealer: The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London W1. +44 (0)20 7629 5116 www.faslondon.com