Blue Beads, Paris by John Duncan Fergusson

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at the 1910 painting called “Blue Beads, Paris” by John Duncan Fergusson which is at the Tate Britain, in London. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts and views about the art, below too. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

“Blue Beads, Paris” by John Duncan Fergusson was created in 1910. It captures a young woman bedecked with vivid blue beads, set against the vibrant ambiance of a Parisian café serving as a visual portal to the artistic atmosphere of early 20th-century Paris. It portrays a young woman. She looks thoughtful, wearing beautiful blue beads. The colours within the canvas are notably vivid, with bold blues, reds, and greens that create an electrifying atmosphere. The centrepiece of the composition is the captivating blue beads, drawing the viewer’s attention to their allure.

Fergusson’s work in “Blue Beads, Paris” reveals the influence of Fauvism and Post-Impressionism, characterized by the utilization of colour in a non-representational manner to emphasize emotional resonance over naturalistic representation. The choice of subject, a young woman within a bustling café, encapsulates the spirit of modern life in Paris during that era.

He was an important artist among a group called the ‘Scottish Colourists.’ They liked to use bright colours and simple shapes like the French painters of their time. Fergusson went to Paris a lot and even lived there from 1907 to 1914. This painting signifies Fergusson’s artistic evolution during his Parisian adventure.

The Tate’s website tells us that the artist’s widow wrote (in 25 July 1964) and I quote: “I cannot remember seeing that picture since 1914—& 1960! when it came back from Paris with some others, and all studio furniture stored there since 1939!… I have no idea who the sitter was, I should say a girl he saw in a café & sketched, he did many paintings just from sketches”. This was originally published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965.

However, I can reveal the identity of the sitter right now! Anne Estelle Rice (1877–1959) was an American-born painter who lived in Paris from 1906 to 1911 before settling in England. She was a member of the “rhythm” group. The name comes from the magazine Rhythm (1911–13), of which Fergusson was the art editor. The group exhibited together at the Stafford Gallery, London, in 1912. Fergusson painted several portraits of her, including today’s painting… so that solves the mystery! Her name is Anne. Fergusson was in a relationship with her … which may explain why his widow had no information to give on her The Tate Gallery Report in 1966.

John Duncan Fergusson was born in 1874 in Leith, Scotland. He commenced his artistic journey at the Royal Institute in Edinburgh. However, his artistic path was significantly altered during his tenure at the Académie Colarossi in Paris, where he encountered the avant-garde influences of artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Paris became a crucible for his artistic transformation, nurturing his ability to embrace the avant-garde.

Fergusson’s mastery of colour and capacity to convey emotion through his palette became defining characteristics of his artistry. “Blue Beads, Paris” stands as a representation of this facet of his work, illustrating his journey from traditionalism to the avant-garde, and ultimately his significant contributions to the world of art. Within the broader context of Fergusson’s body of work and art history, “Blue Beads, Paris” is emblematic of his transition to modernism, marking a pivotal moment in his artistic evolution. It links his early, more conventional pieces with the daring, avant-garde experiments that would define his later career. “Blue Beads, Paris” by John Duncan Fergusson is a work that encapsulates the artist’s journey into the avant-garde, as well as the transformative power of early 20th-century Paris, France.

Tate Britain, situated in London, is a prestigious cultural institution with a primary focus on British art. It serves as a repository of artistic heritage, encompassing an extensive collection spanning more than four centuries, from the 16th century to contemporary works. Distinguished British artists, such as J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, and J.M. Whistler, have their works prominently displayed, providing visitors with a comprehensive survey of the evolution of British artistic expression.The neoclassical architectural design of the Tate Britain building, located along the Thames River opposite Vauxhall in Pimlico, adds to its cultural significance and your experience when you visit … and I hope you do one day!