Hunter’s skill lay in his confident handling of bold colour and he once declared that: ‘Everyone must choose his own way, and mine will be the way of colour’ (the artist, quoted in, T. J. Honeyman, Introducing Leslie Hunter, London, 1937, p.97). In the present work, Hunter explores the properties, power and potential of colour, forsaking traditional modes of perspective in order to use contrasting colour to model form. Hunter absorbed Matisse’s radical new design principles, daring tonal palette and decorative style. Indeed, Hunter's fellow Colourist Samuel John Peploe once commented that, ‘Hunter at his best…is as fine as any Matisse’ (S.J. Peploe, quoted in W. Hardie, Three Scottish Colourists, exh.cat, 1970, p.12).
The present work was executed in the 1920s, a period which has been pinpointed as a key developmental stage in the artist’s career, ‘One can see a bolder and more intense use of colour in the Still Life and landscape paintings of the 1920s’ (T. Hewlett, The Scottish Colourists Cadell, Fergusson, Hunter, Peploe, London, p.58). Hunter depicts pink roses in a simple blue vase, set against a Japonist screen with a drinking glass and lemons. The freshly-cut blooms merge into the floral backdrop creating near intangible spatial planes. This juxtaposition was similarly used by Matisse to create an ambiguous and enigmatic sense of space, in works such as Still Life: Bouquet of Dahlias and White Book (1923, Baltimore Museum of Art). Through the distinct sense of flatness in the present work, Hunter is also exploring the aesthetics of Japonism, a popular theme amongst leading twentieth century avant-garde artists working in Paris.
Hunter has applied the oils with a sense of vigour, utilising the viscosity of the medium in order to create a highly textured impasto surface. Hunter’s impulsive handling is mirrored in his nature: he gifted the present canvas to his doctor, Dr Stewart of Glasgow, freshly finished, while the paint was still ‘wet’. The present work is a superlative example of the gaiety of Hunter’s tonal palette and reflective of Hunter’s magnetic fascination and untiring exploration of colour.
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