Samuel John Peploe RSA (1873-1935)
Grey day, Iona - SOLD
Signed. Oil on canvas
51 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in)
Painted circa 1930. There is a study of Peploe's sons with a cricket bat on the verso
Cadell introduced Peploe to Iona in 1920 and the older artist was immediately captured by the island’s charms, returning on many occasions. Peploe painted entirely from the north side of the island where the sand and rocks were particularly dramatic and offered stunning views of surrounding islands and distant headlands. Even a small shift of viewpoint opened up a whole new vista, and both Peploe and Cadell were able to paint from the same position many times without repeating themselves or each other.
Grey Day, Iona dates from c.1930 and is taken from the northern most tip of the island at Cows Rock, looking over the Strait of Storm. The brown rocks in the middle distance are the eastern edge of Eilean Annraidh and on the horizon is the outline of Treshnish Point and northwest Mull. A similar composition, Iona, Grey Day is held at Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum.
Where Cadell’s paintings of Iona have the feeling of a transient moment, Peploe’s are far more solid and steadfast. Looking at Grey Day, Iona, one is reminded that the landscape on Iona has hardly changed for thousands of years. Peploe emphasises the volume of the rocks, their weight and permanence and pays tribute to the unspoilt splendour of the Hebrides. On the reverse is a c.1924 painting of Peploe’s two sons, William and Denis, who is holding a cricket bat. The boys are wearing Edinburgh Academy school uniforms, and the painting is thought to be the only one he ever painted of his sons. The double sided painting had been in the same Scottish collection for generations when it was shown in 2014 to the artist’s grandson, Guy Peploe of the Scottish Gallery. At the time the reverse was covered by a backing board, so when it was removed the painting of the two children came as a surprise discovery.
“My grandfather must have done this painting of my father Denis and Uncle Willie, which is actually a lovely composition, and then perhaps thought, ‘Is anyone going to be interested? Perhaps not’,” Peploe told the Edinburgh Evening News. “He might then turn it around so there’s a new unpainted canvas and start all over again.” Instead of selling the portrait, he opted to cover it with a board and used the clean side of the canvas to paint the more commercial view in Iona. “It was the Great Depression, materials were expensive and he must have thought rather than buy new canvas, he would just recycle it,” Mr Peploe added.