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The collection;Features and arts

Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display: Week 39 'Blue and White Teapot' by S J Peploe, Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery.

This museum is unusual in that it was built in 1925 as part of the town's war memorial. Like many other public galleries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the collection started thanks to generous bequests from private collections, usually amassed by public-spirited captains of industry in those late victorian times.

Our collection is relatively small but at its heart are a large number of works by two significant Scottish artists, William McTaggart and Samuel J Peploe.

Peploe was born in Edinburgh in 1871. He started painting still life from the late 1880s; this formed a considerable part of his work from 1914 onwards. It was a period of intense change in the world of art, with much innovation stemming from Paris.

The "Blue and White Teapot" is a still life in oil on canvas. The artist was 45 when he painted the picture and had been living in France. He loved the way of life there, particularly its vibrant cafe society. He also visited the latest post-Impressionist shows and met artists such as Derain and Picasso.

Peploe enjoyed working in still life because it gave him more control over his subject matter. The shape, size texture and colour of every object was chosen very carefully. He found that the discipline was not just rewarding creatively but also a valuable instruction exercise.

As with his other works, the artist has taken great care over the composition of this painting. He has chosen to paint it from a high viewpoint, forcing us to look down on the objects, almost as if flipping up the table top. This technique helps us see the shapes of the fruit and objects and the spaces between them.

There is a strong sense of design, and contrasts are maximised to create impact. Vivid round fruit has been placed against a white dish, the angular folds of the cloth and the pages of a book. The outlines are bold, some blue, some red, to emphasise the shape of the objects and their relation to one another.

In both arrangement and subject matter this painting is similar to works by Cezanne by whom the artist was greatly influenced. This painting has been used on all our promotional material, leaflets, catalogues and posters and will shortly feature in our forthcoming resource pack "Still Life".

Emma Nicholson is outreach officer of Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, War Memorial Gardens, Kirkcaldy, Fife KY1 1YG. Tel: 01592 412860. Monday - Saturday 10.30am - 5pm. Sunday 2-5pm.

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