Painted in the early 1920s
From 1914 onwards, Samuel John Peploe endeavoured to paint the perfect still life and applied himself with great purpose, concentrating on a few simple elements: porcelain or glass vases, a fan, roses or tulips set against a backdrop of brightly coloured fabrics bought from Whytock and Reid, the renowned Edinburgh decorators and furnishers. Peploe continued to explore the still life theme throughout his career and in 1929 he wrote to a fellow artist: ‘There is so much in mere objects, flowers, leaves, jugs, what-not – colours, forms, relation – I can never see mystery coming to an end’ (cited in Guy Peploe, S J Peploe, p. 54).
His friend and fellow artist Stanley Cursiter wrote in his biography of Peploe that by the 1920s he ‘had now reached a stage at which his new technique was fully formed. The war years had been a time of preparation, intensive study, and concentration on the problems of colour, form, and lighting. He was like a coiled spring awaiting merely the opportunity to expand’ (Stanley Cursiter, Peploe An Intimate memoir of an artist and his work, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., London, 1947, p. 51).
Major Ion Harrison, the previous owner of Still life with roses was an important patron and friend of the Scottish Colourists, assembling an extraordinary collection of their work on the advice of Dr Tom Honeyman, Director of Glasgow’s Art Gallery. ‘It was in 1921 or 1922 that I first became interested in the work of the three Scottish Colourists. The first exhibition of Peploe’s which I saw was in Alex Reid & Lefevre’s, West George Street, Glasgow. Mr Peploe at that time had an exhibition of flower pictures. I had never seen anything in art similar to these pictures, and I did not understand them. They really startled me for, to my eyes, they were so ‘ultra-modern’…and their brilliant colour against equally strong draperies, were at that time beyond my comprehension’ (Ion R. Harrison cited in T.J. Honeyman, Three Scottish Colourists, 1950, p. 119).