Fergusson's early work includes many oil paintings of men, in contrast to his almost exclusively female focus after moving to Paris in 1907. As a young artist, teaching himself to paint, family and friends were natural choices for practice, allowing him the opportunity to experiment freely.

The informality of the pose and the title of this work add to the sense of intimacy or closeness between artist and sitter. We know that he painted fellow students such as John Macmillan Marshall who studied medicine. The sitter here was probably Thomas Henderson whose portrait Fergusson exhibited in 1906.

In this work Fergusson shows a debt to the techniques of the seventeenth century Dutch artist Frans Hals (1585-1666). The dark background forces our attention to rest on the most important areas of the painting- the sitter's hands and face. The brushwork is loose and lively, executed in short, swift strokes.

  • Material/Medium: oil paint on canvas
  • Date: 1903
  • Creator: John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961)
  • Accession number: 1992.131
  • Category: Fine Art
  • Subject: n/a