Scottish Art: Bonhams, Edinburgh, 16 October, 2019 – an illustrated preview.

Founded in London in 1793, by Thomas Dodd, a famous print dealer of the day, Bonhams is an international auction house with nine salesrooms including London, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and Edinburgh. Today it is renowned for its expert reputation as connoisseurs in fine art, antiques, furnishings, decorative art, motor cars, wine, whisky, books, jewellery and collectibles.

Sales of Scottish Art have been held at the Edinburgh showroom twice a year since around 1996.  Always a key date in the calendar, it has been a delight to browse through the illustrated and informative catalogue in advance of the next auction on 16th October, 2019 at 11am at Bonhams, Queen Street, Edinburgh.

Royan Harbour, Samuel Peploe

A recently discovered painting, “Royan Harbour” by Samuel Peploe has a most interesting provenance. It was purchased around 1910-1915 by Mme Marie Marguerite Soulie, the wife of English novelist and playwright Arnold Bennett, and since then passed on through the family. Royan is a resort town and marina on the West coast of France.

The beach scenes that Peploe painted at Paris Plage in 1906, 07, 08, are dominated by the blue of daylight.  The high point of this development came in the small paintings of the harbour at Royan in 1910. Peploe, aware of both Van Gogh and Les Fauves, turns up the colour key just so far … the experience of intense sunlight.”  Duncan Macmillan “Scottish Art”.

This detailed impressionist composition in various shimmering shades of blue, ochre and buttermilk, using broad brush strokes to depict a charming ‘smudge’ of figures as they promenade along the waterfront to see the yachts and lighthouse in the bright summer sun.

Beach scenes and seascapes, from the Western Isles to the South of France, was a recurring theme for the Scottish Colourists. Another harbour view, “Cassis”  (1927) by Leslie Hunter is delicate ink and crayon sketch of boats reflected in the water.

Cassis, Leslie Hunter

In 1912, Francis Cadell visited Iona for the first time, immediately inspired by the light of sea, sky and sand.  “Mull from Iona”  is a serene scene, looking over the roof of a white-washed house across the narrow turquoise-tinted Sound under a pale sky.

Mull from Iona, Francis Cadell

A wide selection of Scottish seascapes here,  such as “Inch Kenneth and Loch Na Keal, from Iona” (1922) by William Mervyn Glass, which leads the eye the foreground of the rocky shore far into the distant misty hills. “Sannox Bay, Isle of Arran” by John Maclauchlan Milne is also a fine perspective looking across a sweeping bay, the white surf lapping the shore, and golden leaves on the trees with a sense of a breeze in the Autumn air.

Interesting indeed to compare these early 20th century works with the contemporary painting, “Fishing Boat, Corse” by Archie Forrest, with a similar palette of azure to depict the bright light of the Mediterranean.

Fishing Boat, Corse, Archie Forrest

There is a distinctive trademark to the abstract landscapes of Barbara Rae – a dramatic explosion of brash, bold colour and a vitality of movement. With a soft, moody ambience, “Sea Marks”  has an extraordinary watery quality with a splash of moonshine.

Sierra above Carataunas, Barbara Rae

Rae travels the world to capture a topographical sense of place: “It’s the culture and history that fascinates me,” and returns regularly to Spain. “Sierra above Caratuanus” is observed through a rainbow palette to enhance the contours of the terrain with a warm luminosity.

A significant collection of twelve works by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham is a true highlight of this sale. As a member of the St Ives School, she was a key figure in developing Modernist British painting in the mid twentieth century.

“Black and White” (1954), part of her Geoff and Scruffy series, captures with such simplicity, the curving shapes of a moon and beach. She developed her own inventive abstract language fascinated by the geometry of nature of the rocky Cornish landscape.

Expanding Forms,(with orange), Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

The precise discipline of structural composition is evident in “Expanding Forms (with orange) and “Untitled – “Firth of Forth,” the rust red girders of the Rail Bridge in close up.

Scorpio ii, no. 38, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

In contrast, are two later works, acrylic on paper, from the Scorpio series (1997); vibrant patterns of interlocking squares, diagonal stripes and circles, quite hypnotic in their painterly freedom of expression.

My theme is celebration of life, joy, the importance of colour, form, space and texture. Brushstrokes that can be happy, risky, thin, fat, fluid and textured.” Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

The Scottish Sale features a fine selection of portraits painted over the decades, from Sir Henry Raeburn to the masterly figurative study by Francis Cadell –  “Miss Don Wauchope in the George Street Studio.”  

Miss Don Wauchope in George Street Studio, Francis Cadell

 Miss Wauchope was a friend and regular model of the artist, several featuring this dramatic black hat.  Cadell’s studio on George Street, Edinburgh was a Salon decorated in white, grey and lilac with  black floorboards. Furniture, mirrors and artwork were placed like a theatrical setting for this fashionable lady.

Chris Brickley, Head of Scottish Art at Bonhams, comments: “Intimate in atmosphere and fluid in technique, the Wauchope pictures transcend the norm of conventional portrait-painting and become abstract studies of the elegant high society of early 20th century Edinburgh.”

Glamorous men and women with vintage style is the forte of Jack Vettriano.  His moody film-noir portraits reveal a private, intimate world behind closed doors, such as “Private Dancer”  (1998) – lady in black, escort in white, with a glimpse of another couple behind, reflected in the mirror.

Private Dancer, Jack Vettriano

“Lounge Lizards II” (2009) is another sexual encounter, which clearly expresses the subtle, seductive glance of the girl, cigarette holder in hand, waiting for a light from the tall dark stranger.

.. the manipulation of paint in veiled glazes and meaningful shadows, the music of colour and the dramatic focus of composition .. such an identifiable personal style.” W. Gordon Smith. “Lovers and Other Strangers, Jack Vettriano”

In a very different mode are the much admired character portraits depicted by Pat Douthwaite, such as this pastel and chalk drawing, “Female Model.”

Female Model, Pat Douthwaite

This wild, Bohemian lady with a mass of hair, blue eye shadow and pouting lip is typical of Douthwaite’s quirky, crazy Baconian caricatures with a hint of a darker psychological undertone lurking beneath the humorous image.

From the pioneering Colourists to the eminent work of Stanley Cursiter, Sir Robin Philipson, Anne Redpath, David McClure and Elizabeth Blackadder, et al., this diverse showcase of Scottish Art at Bonhams is an inspiring, comparative survey stretching more than a century.


22 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JX

Scottish Art – Wednesday 16 October 2019 at 11am.

The Viewing Dates are as follows:

Friday 11 October            10.00am-4.00pm

Sunday 13 October           2.00pm-4.00pm

Monday 14  October       10.00am-4.00pm

Tuesday 15 October         10.00am-4.00pm

Wednesday 16 October     9.00am-11.00am

On line catalogue –

For more information –   Tel.  0131 225 2266

(IIustrations of works courtesy of Bonhams)


About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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