Leslie Hunter exhibition at the City Art Centre


Leslie Hunter was one of the four Scottish Colourists. The other artists are S.J Peploe who was born in Edinburgh in 1871 J.D Fergusson born in Leith three years later and lastly F.C.B Cadell who again was born in Edinburgh in 1883. The term Scottish Colourist wasn’t used until 1948, they didn’t regard themselves as a group, they never painted together as a group. Indeed Hunter probably didn’t meet the other colourists, although he knew about them, until the end of the First World War. What they had in common was a love for bold colour. They had much more knowledge and experience of what was going on in France at the time in artistic circles than their contemporaries in Scotland or indeed in Britain. Hunter was born in Rothesay in 1877, the youngest of five children. The family emigrated to California in 1892 after the death of two of his siblings. When they decided to return to Scotland in 1899 Hunter opted to stay on in California and move to San Francisco. He made a living by executing illustrations for books and magazines while he worked away at his art. In 1903/4 he wanted to go to Paris. Paris then was acknowledged universally as the centre of the art world and he had heard so much from artists who had been there coming back to California. He had quite an extended stay in Paris living in Montparnasse mixing with the throng of writers and artists there. He sketched in Holland and then went back to San Francisco. He was working towards his first solo exhibition. San Francisco was hit by a massive earthquake followed by a fire which raged throughout a great part of the city for three days. His studio had been burnt down; all his work that he had put together during his career and particularly for his one man show had been destroyed. He was utterly dismayed and decided to return to Glasgow. Hunter made a number of extended visits to Paris. Paris was a place that intrigued him, when he was there when the First World War started but came back to Glasgow. The next major move was the discovery of the landscape of Fife. He was enthralled by the undulating beautiful landscape and spent eight years painting the coastline, the architecture of the farmland and villages of Ceres and Lower Largo producing some highly coloured, vibrant still lifes and landscapes. He came to note in 1923 when he exhibited in London for the first time with Peploe and Cadell at the the Leicester Galleries. The following year the four Colourists exhibited for the first time together in Paris. 1926 he decided on Peploe’s suggestion to go to the South of France to Provence. He made a great number of sketches but he found it difficult to translate them into oils he was much more interested in sketching. It was only in 1928 that his sketches were translated into oils and he had his exhibition. Unfortunately the reception he got back in Glasgow was very mixed, however Hunter himself had a great faith in himself and his art and he was to be proved correct. In an exhibition that he organised himself in America at the beginning of 1929 the critics were very supportive of his work. In 1930 he also went for the second time to Loch Lomond sketching the very colourful houseboats around Balloch, executing some of the finest works that he had produced. Unfortunately Hunter never looked after himself properly, he neglected his health. He had been suffering for some time with what he thought was indigestion, it got very much worse, he at last decided to see about it, he was taken to hospital and had to have an operation right away but sadly it was too late and he died at the age of 54. Hunter has perhaps not received the same acclaim as the other colourists but certainly Hunter at his best is just as good as the other colourists. The aim of this exhibition is to reassess Hunter and his work. A wide range of his work has been brought together in the exhibition from his early illustrations to his sketches that he did in the South of France to his finished paintings. It demonstrates the diversity of his work. It is hoped that people will appreciate what Hunter was trying to do in terms of Scottish Art, he was in advance perhaps of his time.

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