Overlooked and underpriced . . but 'Fifth Colourist' is now in the frame

ONE of Scotland's "forgotten artists" is to receive a solo exhibition –for the first time in 25 years.

Not quite in the gang: John Maclauchlan Milne was a contemporary of Colourists

The work of John Maclauchlan Milne, sometimes claimed to be "the Fifth Colourist", will be featured at a show in Edinburgh in mid-July.

Hide Ad

Milne, who lived from 1885 to 1957, was a contemporary of the Scottish Colourists.

He followed his colleagues in travelling to France, and some of his paintings show the strong influence of their work.

But he was never included as one of the four original Colourists in exhibitions or by critics. His work is priced far lower, and has been frequently overlooked.

Milne's paintings "deserve wider recognition as some of the most striking representations of the Scottish scene produced in the last century," said a top National Galleries of Scotland expert, Philip Long, in an introduction to the show.

The Milne exhibition comes to the well-known private gallery in Edinburgh, Bourne Fine Art, on 13 July. About half of the paintings are on loan and half on sale.

The exhibition was curated by Tom Hewlett of the Portland Gallery, in London, where it has been on show this month.

Hide Ad

The gallery is well-known for sales of the Colourists and other Scottish and British painters, and Mr Hewlett is the former dealer of miner-turned-best-selling painter Jack Vettriano.

Writing in the exhibition catalogue, Mr Hewlett said: "Milne seems somehow to have been unfairly overlooked in the history of 20th-century Scottish art."

Hide Ad

Milne has occasionally been labelled "the Fifth Colourist" by auctioneers, but the current exhibition stresses that he had his own style and approach.

In his day Milne's work was bought by some of Scotland's best known art connoisseurs, including the influential Tom Honeyman, an early writer on the Colourists.

But since his death in 1957 there has been only one exhibition in a public gallery of Milne's work, in his home city of Dundee, in 1985. No commercial gallery, until now, has had a show devoted to his work.

His reputation may have failed to take off because Milne was a private man who sold mostly from his studio and had no official dealer, it is suggested. He did not keep detailed records of his sales.

Relatively little was known until recently of his career. Born in Fife, as a young man he moved to Canada, reputedly working as a cowboy as well as trying his hand as an artist. He is sometimes named as John Maclaughlan Milne, but his signature was Maclauchlan. He returned to Scotland and later served in the First World War.

Like the Colourists, SJ Peploe, JD Fergusson, George Leslie Hunter and FCB Cadell, he travelled and worked in Paris and the French countryside, and appears to have been influenced by Gauguin or Cezanne.

Hide Ad

He also vividly painted the Scottish landscape, including Iona and particularly Arran, where he settled for the last 20 years of his life, and died. The villages of Corrie and Sannox were favourite subjects, but his works on Arran range from farm-land to "brooding mountain scenes".

Prices in the show range from 7,000 to 65,000 for Cafe, South of France, thought to be of St Tropez, where he frequently painted.

Hide Ad

By contrast, major works by the Colourists have sold re-cently for more than 500,000 at auction.

"The Colourists have taken precedent for so long," said Emily Walsh, Bourne Fine Art's director. "We hope this exhibition will show Milne to be as strong a contender in the public's affection. It is really the first time he has been looked at properly."

Milne's work varies widely in quality. But at its best it has an arresting use of colour and light, from the white sands and blue seas of Iona, to chalky French landscapes.

Cafe, South of France is one of Milne's most vivid paintings yet has not achieved full recognition

Analysis of an under-appreciated colourist masterpiece

THE mastery of Milne is in the detail, writes Susan Mansfield.

1 The picture is a drama of light and shade, the sense of bright sunlight evoked not by an azure sky but by the strong shadows cast by the trees and the caf awning.

Hide Ad

2 The buildings and street are bleached white in the sun, evoking the energy-sapping stillness of a hot afternoon. More than the other Colourists, Maclauchlan Milne captured this sense of bright sunlight in his paintings, both of France and of Scotland.

3 He conveys the sense that the viewer of the picture is looking into bright light, where the figures (the woman and the dog) are reduced to blurry forms.

Hide Ad

4 The twisted trunks of the trees and the solid green brushstrokes of the foliage suggests the influence of Van Gogh's paintings of trees.

5 His use of heavy, flat brushstrokes (the car in the background) suggests he was also familiar with the work of the other Fauvist artists.