Lyon & Turnbull

Focus | J.D. Fergusson's Eastre

In Eastre we see Fergusson bringing together three important strains of early 20th Century art: Paganism, Primitivism and Vorticism.

'Eastre' is the Saxon Goddess of Spring and of the rising sun. An enthusiasm for Paganism amongst artists and musicians such as Stravinsky had emerged in the early twentieth century. Fergusson was particularly fascinated by Celtic culture and the observance of harmony and unity in nature and the concept of the female form as a symbol of fecundity, renewal and rhythm. In the South of France during the 1920s, the natural environment and bright sunlight resonated with both Fergusson and his partner, the dancer Margaret Morris, who was herself also involved in a ballet performance entitled 'Hymn to the Sun'. The full lips of Eastre and the repeating curves forming the chest, neck and head convey her organic nature.

Together with the revival of Paganism came an interest in non-Western 'Primitive' art which was widespread from about 1907. Fergusson sketched Cambodian and Indian sculpture in the Trocadéro Museum in Paris. He also admired the work of Brancusi who was perhaps the most important sculptor using tribal art as a source. The strong features and bold stare of masks made a particularly powerful impression on artists of the time. Here the deeply sculpted eye sockets of Eastre recall African and Oceanic wood carvings.

Two years prior to creating Eastre, Fergusson had embarked on a motoring trip around the highlands. His landscapes from this journey convey the Vorticist love of speed as well as elements of Cubism in the way that the landscape is broken up into segments. Here, hints of Vorticism are found in the polished finish and the bold lines running along the cheek bones, chin and eyebrows which create a dynamic composition. Eastre is both a homage to primal nature and a celebration of modern style and energy.

The Scottish National Galleries hold a similar piece by Fergusson in their collections

Visit the Scottish National Galleries Collection

J Fergusson Eastre

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Published: 22 May 2014

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