Lot 12
  • 12

JOHN DUNCAN FERGUSSON, R.B.A. | The Open Air Fête, Armenonville

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Duncan Fergusson, R.B.A.
  • The Open Air Fête, Armenonville
  • oil on canvas
  • 42 by 36cm., 16½ by 14½in.


Adams Bros., London;
Aitken Dott & Son, Edinburgh, sold to R. Wemyss Honeyman, 27 May 1948;
Christie's & Edmiston's, Glasgow, The Wemyss Honeyman Collection, 4 June 1979, lot 16, where purchased by the present owners


Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, J.D. Fergusson, 7 December 2013-15 June 2014;
Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, J.D. Fergusson, 5 July-19 October 2014


A. Strang, E. Cummings and S. McGregor, J.D. Fergusson, exh.cat, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2013, pl.56


CONDITION REPORT PREPARED BY HAMISH DEWAR LTD UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition: The canvas appears to be unlined and to be ensuring a sound and secure structural support on what is evidently the original keyed wooden stretcher. There are two small repairs to the weave of the canvas visible on the reverse. Paint surface: The paint surface has a slightly opaque varnish layer and would benefit from surface cleaning and revarnishing which should give more depth to the paint surface.There is an overall pattern of fine lines of drying craquelure which appear to be stable. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows a number of fine lines of inpainting filling drying craquelure and other very small, scattered retouchings. Summary: The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and should benefit from cleaning and revarnishing.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The Open Air Fête, Armenonville encapsulates the joie de vie of Parisian café society in the early twentieth century. It was painted in 1907, a pivotal year in the artist’s career when he relocated to France permanently. There had always been a strong link between France and Scotland and after moving to Paris, Fergusson declared: ‘Vive la France. Let’s not forget, ever, the Auld Alliance.’ (M. Morris, The Art of J.D. Fergusson, p.53). Of the Scottish Colourists, Fergusson had the most intense and enduring connection with France. He was captivated by Parisian life and the avant-garde tendencies of the French artistic movements. He had been a student of both the Académie Colarossi and Académie Julian in Paris, Fergusson regularly returned to France, often in the company of his compatriot Samuel John Peploe: ‘[Peploe and I] were very impressed with the Impressionists… Manet and Monet were painters who fixed our direction’ (ibid, p.40). With this move to Paris in 1907 came a monumental shift in his painting style: ‘Something new had started and I was very much intrigued. But there was no language for it that made sense in Edinburgh or London - an expression like ‘the logic of line’ meant something in Paris that it couldn't mean in Edinburgh.’ (ibid, p.45).  Fergusson was enchanted by Paris, regarded at that time as the cultural epicentre of the world, and more specifically the Bohemian atmosphere of Montparnasse, where he lived and worked: ‘I was in Paris without any money or rich relations…but repeatedly encouraged by what some people call “le bon air de Paris, qui semble contenir les effleuves amoureuses et les emanation intellectuelles”. Life is how it should be and I was very happy. The Dome, so to speak, round the corner; l’Avenue quite near; the concert Ronge not far away – I was very much interested in music; the Luxembourg Gardens to sketch in; Colarossi’s class if I wanted to ask for a model. In short everything a young painter could want…’ (J. Geddes and M. Morris, Café Drawings in Edwardian Paris from the Sketch-Books of J D Fergusson, 1974, p.8).  

The subject of The Open Air Fête, Armenonville is reminiscent of Auguste Renoir’s iconic Dance at the Moulin de la Galette (1876, Musée d’Orsay) but the style is more modern - more Fauve with its dark outlines and refracted colour. In Paris, Fergusson was fully integrated into the circle of artists leading the modernist revolution, including Henri Matisse, André Derain, Robert Delaunay and Pablo Picasso: ‘I had been accepted by the people I had most respect for. As an artist nothing could be more important.’ (M. Morris, The Art of J.D. Fergusson, p.54).

In the present work, Fergusson depicts the gaiety of the outdoor terrace of the restaurant, the Pavillon d’Armenonville, in the Parc de Bagatelle near the Champs Élysée. The elegant woman with her flamboyant, fashionable hat was probably based upon sketches of Anne Estelle Rice, a fellow artist and Fergusson’s lover in Paris. Fergusson and Rice met in 1907 and he painted her ‘on many occasions’ (K. Sinister, John Duncan Fergusson: Living Paint, p.37). She promenades past a crowded scene, a flânuese observing the scene of modern urban leisure and fashion.