George Leslie Hunter

George Leslie Hunter & Ceres

George Leslie Hunter (7 August 1877 – 7 December 1931) was a Scottish painter, regarded as one of the four artists of the Scottish Colourists  group of painters.

Following the end of the War in 1919 it was probably Hunter’s friend Matthew Justice who suggested that Hunter should look to Fife for inspiration for his painting. Justice managed the Dundee family furniture business started by his father ‘Thomas Justice & Sons.’

So it was, that Hunter would visit Fife in any season for the next seven years interspersed by trips to France and Italy and time also back in Glasgow. In 1919 Hunter encountered fellow Glasgow artist John Quinton Pringle in Ceres with his friend James Meldrum. Meldrum’s artist son William Meldrum recalled that Hunter would go to great lengths to explain and debate his theories on art. Hunter invited William and his father to tea. They went to his lodgings in the village (probably Latch Cottage), but there was no sign of Hunter. The landlady enlightened them ‘ och, he’ll be awa’ walkin wi’ his dreams!’ It was typical of Hunter that his art carried him away and he forgot all about appointments.

A Fife Landscape. A Village in Fife. Cottages in Fife

Hunter produced many paintings of Lower largo, Drumeldrie and Ceres. Unfortunately the location of a painting is not always easily determined being named ‘Fife Cottage’, ‘Fife Farm,’ etc. However, all the three works above could be Ceres ??

I and my family moved to Ceres in 1987 and it was then that I became aware of the work of Hunter, a firm favourite artist ever since.

All the above five paintings are definitely of Ceres. Hunter would carry small canvas or board and produce rapid painted sketches plein air. His palette would become heavy with incrustations of dried paint and at that point he would dispense with the old palette and start a new one !

This work is just titled ‘Ceres.’

Hunter often shared his ‘digs’ at Latch Cottage with William Meldrum (1865-1942), the Meldrum’s owned land and properties in Ceres. I’ve refrained from displaying Hunter’s major works of Ceres (Latch Cottage, Ceres Kirk, Ceres Mill, The Old Mill) – these are featured in previous blogs, the links are at the end of this blog. The works featured here, I hope, will be new to most and provide some discussion as to the location of the paintings.

A Distant View of Ceres. Cottages, View of Ceres. Red Roofs by a Weir.

Just outside of Ceres is Wellwood and nearby is Ceres MIll (still named on OS Maps) where Hunter produced a whole series of works. I’ve included the lesser known paintings and sketches here. The major works can be accessed from the links at the end of the blog.

The Mill and Mill Dam, Ceres.

Could these be Ceres ? A Cottage Garden. Fife Cottages. A woman in a Straw Hat outside a Cottage.

AND……….around Ceres ?

Cottages Amongst Hills. A Fife Landscape.

In a postcard to Matthew Justice dated 25th November 1920 Hunter tells Justice that he is etching, as the colour has vanished from the landscape. It was around 1919 that he began to experiment with etching and drypoint and in 1920-22 he produced nine etchings featuring cottages and landscapes around Ceres. It is not known how many prints Hunter took from each plate, he may have merely produced them for his own pleasure. I doubt very much whether Hunter reversed the original sketch when transferring to the plate so the following prints are more than likely back to front.

Etchings/Drypoints.

“Ceres Cottages”; These cottages, which still survive, also appear in a number of oil paintings by Hunter, including “Fife Village”, 

Ceres, Fife, with two women in conversation; Hunter is known to have stayed in Ceres in May and November 1920.

Ceres with Three Fishermen. This is a view from the far side of the Ceres Burn, the tallest building is Brand’s Inn, adjoining which is the Weigh House, now part of the Fife Folk Museum.

“A Village in Fife”; A slightly different view to the work above, Ceres with Brand’s Inn and the Weigh House. The same tree and cottage were in an oil signed and dated 1920,

I’ve reversed the last etching and to me it appears to make more sense that way around. Comments welcome.

A Village in Fife. This must be Ceres ??

McNeill Reid promoted an exhibition of works by Peploe, Cadell and Hunter at the Leicester Galleries in 1923. A J McNeill Reid  was one of the most influential art dealers in Europe in the early 20th century, exhibiting and selling artworks by some of the finest artists of his period, including the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. Overall well received Hunter was not satisfied and was unduly sensitive to criticism. It was at this time that he had the first of his recurrent ‘nervous breakdowns.’

He quickly recovered and spent time painting in Fife visited by friends from Glasgow and Dundee. Subsequent exhibitions in Glasgow and Edinburgh were very successful and a joint agreement with Reid’s and Aitken Dott secured Hunter £600 per annum in return for first call on his works.  This freed him from any financial worries for the next few years.

Hunter wrote: ‘……I may proceed to Ceres very soon perhaps this week to get started on the apple blossom. I have written about a room there and have been informed the blossom is just coming out. I will be glad to get out of the city for a little when everyone one meets has the hump. Fife is ever a delightful thought on my mind with its beautiful valleys and villages.’

Fife Farm

A quick trip to the USA was made in 1924 but Hunter proceeded no further than New York.  A postcard read: ‘I am tired of seeing things and people, though it has been a change to rest. Am now anxious to get back to Fife and get some work done. Met Augustus John here.’

In the latter part of 1926 Hunter departed for the South of France, the inspiration for much of his later work. His affection for Ceres, however, is amply displayed by the many works executed in and around the village.

The Mill House (one time Brands Inn). This is a monoprint dated 1920.

I hope you don’t mind….time for the commercial now. My latest lino-cut of Ceres (August 2022). An edition of 50 signed and numbered. 8 ins x 6ins. £20 (£23 in mount).

The other Ceres/Hunter links can be found here: https://httpartistichorizons.org/2018/07/25/back-latch-cottage-ceres-george-leslie-hunter-and-william-meldrum/

Some of the artists that visited Ceres

Bibliography: ‘Three Scottish Colourists’ by TJ Honeyman, Thomas Nelson & Son 1950.

‘George Leslie Hunter’ by Derek Ogston, Baillieknowe Publishing 2002.

‘Hunter Revisited’ by Bill Smith & JIll Mariner, Atelier Books 2012.

Graham Bennison, August 2022. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

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