LES EUS by JD Fer­gus­son (1911)

The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

Les Eus is one of the most ex­u­ber­antly joy­ful paint­ings in the Scot­tish reper­toire. Six life-size nude fig­ures caught in a bac­cha­na­lian dance burst through the can­vas. Not the first nude to hit Scot­land, but cer­tainly the bold­est – men and women danc­ing to­gether, naked! Ripe and rounded, the dancers glow with health and vi­tal­ity. Paint is spread thickly like warm but­ter. Breasts and but­tocks are soft and sen­sual. Feet curl like Moroc­can slip­pers. This is a full­blooded fer­til­ity dance set in an idyll of joy and fe­cun­dity.

Fer­gus­son was in Paris where Isadora Dun­can ex­tolled dance’s lib­er­at­ing qual­i­ties and Josephine Baker strut­ted her stuff – noth­ing more than a mini-skirt of ba­nanas be­tween her and the cen­sors. Di­aghilev’s Bal­let Russe was at­tended by the riot squad.

Artists were try­ing to ex­press the frag­men­tary na­ture of the world of ex­pe­ri­ence: think of cu­bism. Fer­gus­son, who fre­quented left bank cafes, de­scribes “mar­ble ta­bles scrawled with Eu­clid­ian di­a­grams [that] ex­plained ev­ery­thing from the price of eggs to Bergso­nian the­ory”. Les Eus is a vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the elan vi­tal that lay at the heart of Berg­son’s com­plex phi­los­o­phy.

The con­text through which the im­pres­sion­able Fer­gus­son moved was rich. Pi­casso’s much de­rided Les Demoi­selles lan­guished in his stu­dio. Fer­gus­son knew Pi­casso and vis­ited that stu­dio. He was familiar with Derain and van Don­gen. Matisse’s Dance demon­strated an even more ma­ni­a­cal frenzy. Not since the pot­ters moulded their wares in an­cient Greece have naked young men and women danced so freely to­gether. Isadora Dun­can’s mod­els were those Greek vases. In art as in life, what goes around comes around.

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