Still Life with Roses in a Chinese Vase was painted in the mid 1920s and is contemporary with works such as Still Life with a Fan and Pink Roses in a Jug (sold in these rooms, 18 April 2005, lot 102) which contains the same purple drape. The blue and white Chinese vase and lacquer fan was a favourite item which appears in several other still-lifes of this period, including Still Life of Pink and Red Roses in a Chinese Vase (sold in these rooms, 19 April 2004, lot 69).
In the early years of the 1920s Peploe painted a series of vibrant still-lifes of flowers and fruit, in which he developed his approach to painting, concentrating less on texture and tone and making colour, form and symmetry his primary concern. Moving away from the more Manetesque style of his earlier period, Peploe developed a way of painting more closely akin to that of Cezanne and the Fauves with their tropical colour and delineated tone. In the resulting still-lifes, broadly applied paint expresses the forms of citrus fruit, flower blooms, oriental vases and fans as studies of shape and colour, emphasising and echoing one another in the decorative treatment of space.
The years spanning the war had been formative years for Peploe in which he experimented, studied and concentrated on ‘the problems of colour, form, and lighting’. He emerged from this period, fully formed, ‘He was like a coiled spring awaiting merely the opportunity to expand.’ He embarked upon his most productive artistic phase, his popularity having fully recovered from a period of depression in the years 1910-1913 when his style began to change from the more fluid transformation. After a handful of collectors recognised the merit of his later canvases, with their definite pattern and bright colours, others were close to follow and Peploe’s reputation was once again restored. In 1917, his status was heightened further by his election to the Royal Scottish Academy, which brought his more reticent collectors the official recognition they needed to start to snap up the still-lifes which were leaving his studio via his agent Aitken Dott and Sons. Highly successful exhibitions in 1916 and 1917 had established Peploe as a painter to be reckoned with and, just as today, he has emerged once more from a period of neglect; in the 1920s he found himself commanding relatively high prices for his pictures.
Peploe’s biographer Stanley Cursiter describes how after the First World War, ‘Studies of roses in particular, began to appear, forming the first of a series of rose pictures which he continued to produce throughout the years, changing as his style developed but invariably fine.’ Depending on the availability of flowers, Peploe painted studies of roses in the summer, tulips in the spring and common objects such as blue and white vases, fans and dinner plates. ‘When he selected his flowers or fruit from a painter’s point of view he presented a new problem to the Edinburgh florists. They did not always understand when he rejected a lemon for its form or a pear for its colour, and he remained unmoved by their protestations of ripeness or flavour’. Peploe’s compositions and choices of colour share the same deliberation and meticulousness and by this period of his career, he had finely-tuned his vision to such a degree that the effect is at once strikingly intense and harmoniously ordered.
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