#ArtWednesday: William Gowe Furguson, Scottish Painter

Still-Life with Birds 1662 Oil on panel, 32 x 28 cm Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Still-Life with Birds
1662
Oil on panel, 32 x 28 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

William Gowe (or Gouw) Ferguson was a Scottish painter who was active also in the northern Netherlands. He was probably trained in Scotland but went to the Continent as a young man. He was in The Hague by 1660 and became a painter of still-life so much in the Dutch manner that he is often confused with painters like Jan Weenix. He also worked in Amsterdam and Utrecht. He also visited Italy.

Still-Life with Dead Game 1680s Oil on canvas, 57 x 48 cm The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Still-Life with Dead Game
1680s
Oil on canvas, 57 x 48 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

He painted accomplished still-lifes in the style of such Dutch painters as Jan Vonck (1630-after 1660) or Willem van Aelst. A distinguished early example, the Still-Life with Birds (1662; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), has a distinctive pale background, while a later Still-life with Dead Game (1684; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh) exploits a shadowed background. Ferguson also painted landscapes with ruins and figures, generally under a dark sky and often sinister in mood, for instance a Ruined Altar and Figures (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).

Still-Life of Dead Game and Songbirds 1690 Oil on canvas, 125 x 104 cm Private collection

Still-Life of Dead Game and Songbirds
1690
Oil on canvas, 125 x 104 cm
Private collection

He was probably in London in the 1670s, when John Maitland, 2nd Earl and 1st Duke of Lauderdale, and his wife commissioned him and other artists to produce pictures for the decoration of Ham House, Surrey. Two of these, Classical Ruins and a Sorceress among Classical Ruins, were inset as overdoors in the Duchess’s private closet. Ferguson’s choice of subject-matter was probably partly influenced by Dutch painters, for instance Thomas Wijck, who was also in the service of the Lauderdales, or earlier artists such as Jacob de Wet.

His last dated paintings are of 1695. Still-life with dead fowl hanging against a board was his favorite subject.

Crash

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