Hunter was not an artist who conformed to traditional modes of painting and just as his life was rather spontaneous, his art was also experimental. His experiments in composition and colour were not always successful but with a work like the present painting he showed the careful arrangement of objects and harmonies of colour that he was capable of. This large and well composed still-life in Hunter’s studio, demonstrates Hunter's refinement as an artist; ‘It is this unerring sense of colour that made Hunter the artist he became… never a jarring pattern is found, or an inharmonious tone in his colour schemes – rich and glowing as they are without a hint of garishness.’ (T. J. Honeyman, Introducing Leslie Hunter, 1937, p. 211)
Hunter usually composed his still lifes around a central motif of flowers, although on occasion a bowl of fruit would be dominant in the composition. On one occasion he even made a cooked lobster the chief subject of his picture. Hunter would return to his Glasgow studio with bouquets of choice blooms and despite the chaos of his housekeeping, was able to construct a pleasing and sophisticated still life from which to work. An event is recorded in which, at a dinner party he became enraptured by the vase of flowers which had stood on the table at dinner, and after pleading with his host was allowed to leave with the vase and the flowers in order that he might paint them. Unfortunately he ommitted to empty the water out of the vase as he marched home, becoming increasingly drenched with every step. These eccentricities and enthusiasms show the great excitement he felt for painting flowers.
Still Life with Carnations and Fruit appears to date from the late 1920s when Hunter painted several still lifes with a background of white painted panelling. It is comparable with Still Life with Tulips and Fruit (sold in these rooms, 27 August 2003, lot 1223) and Still Life with Apples and a Rose (sold in these rooms, 27 August 2003, lot 1224) in which the still life is arranged on the polished top of a round table. The same tablecloth appeared in another painting by Hunter of this period, entitled The Red Tablecloth (sold in these rooms, 30 August 2000, lot 1289).
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