Peploe is one of the great names of Scottish painting – he ranks alongside Ramsay, Raeburn, Wilkie and McTaggart. Coming from a middle class Edinburgh family – his father was a banker – the success of his career was founded on assiduous technical study in Edinburgh and Paris and a wide but profound appreciation of past masters from Frans Hals (he also spent time as a student in Holland) to Edouard Manet. This however was allied to intelligent curiosity about up to the minute developments in avant garde painting in Paris where he spent many of his first years as a professional artist before the first world war.
When he returned to live in Scotland in 1912 Peploe’s work was as radical as anything being produced in Britain. Encouragement for this international approach came from the experiences of The Glasgow Boys, many of whom were only a decade older than Peploe. Not only had they studied on the Continent – Antwerp for some as well as Paris – but they then exhibited abroad, in America as well as in Europe, a path that Peploe and his fellow Colourists were to follow. This broader approach meant that both schools initially kept up with the rapid cultural developments of their time. However what elevates Peploe above the Scottish artists of the previous generation is that, unlike the majority of The Glasgow Boys, he did not settle back into complacent repetition after the initial flourish of modernity as a young man. It is very obvious looking at the development of his career, and especially with the series of still lifes of the 1920s, that he wanted to constantly improve rather than replicate something that had previously proved aesthetically and commercially successful.