Guy Peploe, grandson of S.J. Peploe, has a unique insight into the works of the Scottish Colourists. Growing up with both a grandfather and father as successful and famous painters, the expectation – and pressure – was there to become an artistic marvel himself. However, openly saying in the past that he "can't paint for toffee" and has a "distinct lack of imagination", Guy Peploe decided to take a slightly different route into the gallery world. Guy currently holds the position of Managing Director at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh – on the 'other side of the canvas'.

An expert on the Scottish Colourists, often appraising works or quoting for press, the Managing Director is frequently asked about his relationship with the artist. Guy is "immensely proud of [his] grandfather and love[s] to talk about him", which is just as well, as Burning Bright: The Scottish Colourists is causing quite a stir! The exhibition includes significant works of all four Scottish Colourists – S.J. Peploe (1871 - 1935), J.D. Fergusson (1874 - 1961), G.L. Hunter (1877 - 1931) and F.C.B. Cadell (1883 - 1935) and consists of paintings and drawings which represent all of the favoured subjects of the artists such as still-life, interior scenes, landscapes and portraiture.

We had a chat with Guy ahead of his upcoming talk, Samuel John Peploe: A Distinct Vision, to learn a little bit more about his grandfather’s artwork and the Scottish Colourists.

Guy Peploe with Roses by S.J. Peploe, oil on board, 51 x 40.5 cm, c.1928 © The Scottish Gallery

What are your earliest memories of your grandfather’s work? Did you see him paint when you were growing up and did you see any unfinished pieces or sketchbooks?

My grandfather died early, in 1935 when he was 64, so I didn't know him. I grew up in a painter's home given that my father was a painter too and there were always pictures on the walls. As I grew older, my interest matured and my father shared some of his memories as well as the loose drawings in boxes, sketchbooks, unframed paintings and photos.

I have a very strong recollection of visiting a house in Helensburgh, with my father, in around 1983. We were let in by a housekeeper and left to our own devices. The house was unchanged since the thirties and contained over a hundred works, nearly all by the Scottish Colourists. It was like stepping back in time, many of the greatest works by each (though little by J.D. Fergusson) lit by summer light in elegant rooms with faded furnishings including paintings by F.C.B. Cadell depicting the same interiors in brilliant colour.

What is your favourite piece of your grandfather’s work?

I love a drawing with a little oil colour of a girl in a red dress with a waiter stood behind her; she looks so proud and happy! My favourite picture in the exhibition, I suppose for personal reasons, is the portrait of my father Denis Peploe by Cadell, painted in Iona in around 1930.  A special place, a more innocent time, a summer that must have seemed would never end.

Although famed for their work of beautiful European destinations and often exotic scenes, shores a lot closer to home became a main focal point for their work. Iona, Scotland became a special place for the Colourists. Cadell and Peploe have a number of works depicting the stunning seascapes, with Peploe straying away from his more typical bold and warm still-life colour palettes, to create cooler tones in greens and blues.

Working in one of Scotland’s premier galleries, you have seen work from all over the world, from every era. What do you think makes your grandfather and his contemporaries' works stand the test of time?

Hard to say – but most of their work has remained relevant and 'undated' which is a real tribute to the optimistic branch of modernism their painting represents.

Delve deeper into the Scottish Colourists at our upcoming talk, Introducing the Scottish Colourists, on Tuesday 8 October, with former Director and Keeper of Art at The Fleming Collection, Selina Skipworth.

Paris-Plage, c. 1907 by S.J. Peploe, oil on board. Reproduced with kind permission of the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation

S.J. Peploe spent a lot of his time in Paris with friends, attending poetry evenings, dining out, and painting amazing pieces of work. How did a man from Edinburgh end up becoming such an artistic superstar?

A creative milieu, Peploe had to escape from the stifling conservatism and constraints of his hometown and upbringing. He felt most comfortable amongst his peers; with like-minded company, music and conversation. He was never wide-eyed, never an aspirant seeking entry to a bohemian club. Instead, work came first, at once a necessity and a creative ferment, often full of doubt; he knew his own genius but was never anything more than pleased when others recognised it.

Guy insists that the family's creative flair skipped his generation. But Guy's insight into such a prominent and important movement – not only in Scottish art, but British too, and his ability to discuss, share and promote it as well as he does, is surely just as important. The continued relevance and interest in the Scottish Colourists is, of course, largely a result of the artists' talent, but can also be credited to those such as Guy Peploe, who are able to share personal stories, connections and memories thus keeping the legacies of the Scottish Colourists alive.

Burning Bright: The Scottish Colourists is on show in our Main Gallery until 12 January 2020. A Day Pass costs £7.50 and Lightbox Members and under 21s visit all exhibitions for free. Want to know what other exhibitions we’ve got on? Click here.