Of all the Colourists George Leslie Hunter was perhaps the most variable and inconsistent artist, but was capable of powerful dexterity, exemplified by Still Life with Stocks of c.1930 which rivals the very best still lifes of all four artists. The brilliance of his colour is used here to its greatest effect in the rich, glossiness of the stocks flowers, contrasted with the stark whites of the sundae glass and the vibrant patterning of the drape. The quality of this painting is equal to Still Life with Fruit and Marigolds in a Chinese Vase of c. 1928 (Fleming Collection) and Still Life with Anemones and Citrus Fruit (Sotheby’s, Hopetoun House, 18 April 2005, lot 123) which Hunter’s biographer and friend Dr. Honeyman chose to illustrate the pinnacle of the artist’s still life painting. Three paintings include the same porcelain fruit-bowl, but in Still Life with Stocks Hunter chose to add a folk-style pattern to the porcelain for additional decorative effect.
In the winter of 1926 Hunter moved to the South of France in search of new inspiration and the famous light of the Riviera. In a letter to his friend Matthew Justice he wrote; ‘I have been in St Paul a week and have just got into a new little studio attached to this hotel (Le Colombe d’Or) where I can paint still life as well as landscape. Still life that is different from in Glasgow. Fruit is just coming on and flowers are abundant. This is painters country.’(T. J. Honeyman Archives, National Library of Scotland). His obvious delight and motivation is apparent in the above letter and by 1929 Hunter’s still life paintings reflect the two basic approaches he developed and applied in the past two years in Provence. There is the strong patterned style with its attendant black outlines and, at the opposite end of the scale, the thinly painted almost liquid application of rich colour and tone.
During his lifetime Hunter’s work was often likened to that of Matisse and Cezanne and although Honeyman noted that both artists had had some influence upon Hunter, especially during his stay in France, he was adamant in his contest that Hunter was far from an imitator of any other artist. He wrote; ‘One should not liken him to Matisse. One should contrast them. Each is a colourist, but their perceptions differ.’ (T. J. Honeyman, Introducing Leslie Hunter, 1937, p. 138) At this time Hunter’s style was fully formed and he was proud of his achievements ‘he was emphatic in the conviction that his present style of painting qualified him for inclusion among the accredited leaders of the post-war European art.’ (ibid Honeyman, p. 138)
A painting in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art entitled Still Life, Stocks appears to relate to the present painting. This rapidly painted composition painted with washes of diluted oil paint suggests that it was made as a sketch for Still Life with Stocks which differs in details but is fundamentally the same composition.
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