'The palette is dominantly pastel blue, green and pink and the drama delivered by the oranges and flower blooms. A new surface structure is realised by the use of dark-coloured outlines, containing the furrowed areas of paint. Tulips were for the first time his favourite subject, the flower-heads tight or expanded, creating different shapes of brilliant colour against a schematic backdrop of blue, green and yellow.' (Guy Peploe, S.J. Peploe 1871-1935, 2000, p.47)
The artist's label attached to the reverse of this picture bears the address of Peploe's studio in Paris and therefore we are able to date the picture to c.1912; he returned to Edinburgh by June that year. The studio on Boulevard Raspail was in the artistic heart of Paris, in Montparnasse. It was here that Peploe and his wife Margaret and infant son Willy made their home not far from their friend John Duncan Fergusson. Of their time together in Paris Fergusson wrote; 'By this time I was settled in the movement. I had become a societaire of the salon d'automne and felt at home. Peploe and I went everywhere together. I took him to see Picasso and he was very much impressed. We went to the Salon d'automne dinner where we met Bourdelle, Friez, Pascin and others... He was working hard and changed from blacks and greys to colour and design. We were together again, seeing things together instead of writing about them.' (ibid Peploe, p.37)
Tulips has been given various titles over the years and it is difficult to know which would have been chosen by the artist himself. The label on the reverse which appears to be written in the artist's own hand gives the one word title. In Roger Billcliffe's book this picture is described as; 'One of the first of a series of still-life paintings in which Peploe experimented with a new way of representing pictorial space. The perspective is deliberately flattened, objects are encircled by lines of dark paint, and there is an emphasis on pattern and decorative line, as in the stems of the drooping tulips. The long repetitive brushstrokes recall some of Van Gogh's brushwork and even the colour seems hotter and more emotive, like that in several of Van Gogh's later paintings.' (Roger Billcliffe, The Scottish Colourists, 1989, p.166, repr. pl.166)
Tulips has a distinguished provenance, having once been owned by David Cargill (1872-1939), whose notable collection of Impressionist paintings including works by Gaugin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Seurat and Degas. The inclusion is of this picture in his collection is testament to its quality. The picture was later sold by Aitken Dott in Edinburgh and bought by another eminent collector of twentieth century art, William Bowie M.B.E., M.C. M.A. (1911-2008) whose collection boasted more works by Peploe than any other artist. When the picture was exhibited as part of Mr Bowie's collection in 2009, the present picture was described as 'one of the most striking works by any of the Scottish Colourists and is one of the most striking works of the artist's Paris years'.
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