Art review: A New Era, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
The Prime Minister recently declared that we have never felt entirely at home with Europe. She may feel that way, but she certainly didn’t speak for Scotland. Indeed, A New Era: Scottish Art 1900 to 1950, demonstrates how little such reservations are reflected in Scottish art and by extension more widely in Scottish history. The exhibition is presented as a dialogue with European modernism from cubism and fauvism before the First World War to expressionism, product of the bleak years after the Second. Accepting this sequence for a moment, certainly Scottish modern art began with a bang and in Paris. JD Fergusson’s abstract painting, Étude de Rhythm, dates from 1910, the year of Braque and Picasso’s first cubist pictures. Fergusson is not a cubist picture, but is just as far from simple representation as theirs. Indeed, it goes further. An abstract picture of a couple making love, it breaks social as well as artistic taboos. Nothing so overtly erotic surfaced in the recognised mainstream until surrealism.