Samuel John Peploe was born in Edinburgh in 1871 and educated at the Collegiate School in Charlotte Square. He showed academic promise but had no interest in developing a career in the professions, preferring an outdoor life of walking, sailing and sketching.
As a result of this last interest, he enrolled in The Trustees’ Academy in 1893, the forerunner of Edinburgh College of Art. He followed this in the next year by attending L’ Academie Julian in Paris and later at L’ Academie Colarossi. He was an assiduous student being influenced early in his career by the Dutch masters, in particular, Franz Hals. He also formed a lifelong habit of taking painting trips to Northern France and the Hebrides, from 1901 in the company of his friend, J.D Fergusson.
Before that, in 1895 he was back in Edinburgh, taking a studio in Shandwick Place and also in that year, heralded his talent by winning the MacLaine Watters Medal for his work at the Royal Scottish Academy life school. During the last years of the Nineteenth Century he painted widely in Scotland and exhibited at the Royal Sottish Academy, the Society of Scottish Artists and the Royal Glasgow Institute.
In 1900, Peploe moved his studio to 7 Devon Place and had his first solo exhibition at Aitken Dott & Son, Edinburgh in November 1903 and during 1904 and 1905 painted in Brittany, Paris, Dieppe and Paris-Page with Fergusson. In October 1908, Peploe exhibited in London ( Baillie Gallery) along with Fergusson, Sickert and Pissaro following this with another solo exhibition at Aitken Dott & Son in 1909.
Marriage to Margaret Mackay, who he had met painting on Barra, followed in 1910 with the couple spending two years in Paris where Peploe had a studio at 278 Boulevard Raspail. This was an important time in his development, being influenced by the Fauvist movement, Van Gogh and de Segonzac. Returning to Edinburgh to live and work in 1912 he had a solo exhibition of drawings at the Stafford Gallery in London and put on his own show at the New Gallery in Shandwick Place , as his new paintings had been rejected by his old dealer as too advanced!
On his return from Paris, just before the First World War, Peploe painted on Arran, notably, one of 1912, known as Arran (now in a private collection) of which it has been written: “The mountainous landscape is rendered in dynamic brush strokes and earthy tones which give a sense of the blustery weather and a brooding atmosphere. The Scottish landscape had never been painted in this way before and pictures like Arran were truly avant garde” (Sotheby’s Auction Report 2019). In 1913 he painted another called Arran Hills, now in the Leicester Gallery, London as well as views from High Corrie.
Peploe’s application to join the army in 1914 was rejected on the grounds of ill health but he continued to paint throughout Scotland and in France and exhibiting in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and New York for the rest of his life. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1917, taught two terms at Edinburgh College of Art in 1933 where he was extremely influential and died in Edinburgh in 1935.
Peploe, along with fellow Scottish Colourists, including J.D.Fergusson, G.L. Hunter and F.C.B. Cadell, breathed new life into Scottish art. Renowned for his brilliant palette, this shy rather diffident, talented man had a wide range of subjects including figure painting, still life and, in particular, landscape all of which show conviction and passion.
The Scottish Colourists 1900 – 1930: Philip Long with Elizabeth Cumming: National Galleries of Scotland : 2000
The Dictionary of Scottish Painters 1600 to the Present: Paul Harris and Julian Halsby: Canongate 1990