Peploe was an artist who could not settle for long in one studio and liked to move to allow a new environment to challenge and stimulate his art. In 1905, this restlessness resulted in his move to York Place which seems to have inspired a new way of painting. The new studio was the antithesis of his former one at Devon Place, with lofty proportions and large north facing windows. It had been built for the great portrait painter Raeburn in 1795 in the elegant taste of the eighteenth century. As Peploe's biographer Stanley Cursiter wrote, 'It was in this room that Raeburn mastered the problem which for him held a perennial interest - how to use light. In his early pictures we can see how he experimented with different effects of lighting.' (ibid Cursiter, p.16) Likewise Peploe began a series of pictures at York Place which investigated the effects of lighting upon still-lifes and figurative subjects. 'If his [Raeburn's] ghost remained in his old surroundings, there must have been times when, looking over Peploe's shoulder, he applauded the verve and assurance with which another brush repeated again the old magic of a sure touch and the darks placed on the half-tones with precision and faultless tone.' (ibid Cursiter, p. 19) In its dramatic study of flickering refracted tone, Reflections is one of the most startlingly fluid paintings of this period with echoes of Lavery and Walton's flamboyant elegance. The painting is built up of soft grey and pink tones, startlingly contrasted with glossy black and a flash of jade-green. The tones were all suggested by the decoration of the studio itself with its walls painted grey and pink by Peploe and its polished black linoleum floor. At this time Peploe's technique of paint application became broader 'and he adopted a medium which gave a richer surface and which appeared to hold the brush marks with a still fuller body of paint... In the whole of his earlier manner, when the rich flowing technique absorbed his interest, there is nothing finer than the work done at York Place.' (ibid Cursiter, p. 18)
The painterly qualities of the present work combined with its en-grisaille tones is suggestive of the work of fellow artist Whistler. The subject of a woman looking in a mirror recalls Whistler’s Symphony in White of 1865 (Tate), although the energetic brushwork in Peploe’s picture is far closer to the work of his other great influence, Édouard Manet. Manet’s Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère of 1882 (Courtauld Gallery, London) includes the artistic device of the mirror reflecting the face of the female figure. J.D. Fergusson commented on Peploe’s fascination with Manet’s technique in the introduction to the catalogue for his exhibition at the Gallerie Baillie in 1905, ‘Before we met, Peploe and I had both been to Paris… where we were both very impressed with the Impressionists…Manet and Monet were the painters who fixed our direction – In Peploe’s case, Manet especially.’ (Billcliffe Roger, The Scottish Colourists, 1989) Reflections from mirrors also figure strongly in the work of F.C.B. Cadell, who during a period prior to the First World War produced a series of portrait paintings in sumptuous interiors which displayed reflections from an over-mantle.
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