Has Hunter ‘Sunrise’ painting mystery been solved here in Fife?

Philip Bowen
Philip Bowen

The unknown location depicted in one of Fife’s most famous paintings, which has stayed a mystery for more than 90 years, has been solved, claims a Liverpudlian playwright.

Poet and writer Philip Bowen is convinced he’s found the location of ‘Sunrise Over Fife Harbour’, painted by George Leslie Hunter, a key member of the celebrated group of artists known as the Scottish Colourists.

Mr Bowen told the East Fife Mail his research points to Hunter painting the harbour scene at Lower Largo and, having visited the Fife coastal village on several occasions as part of a week of research into Hunter’s links with Fife, he is convinced he has found the scene featured in the famous painting.

“When I first arrived in Lower Largo I began to have doubts but having spent more time here I am convinced this is indeed the location,” said Mr Bowen.

Having surveyed the village, he is sure Hunter committed the view to canvas from high ground overlooking the harbour area, possibly even from the viaduct.

“The apex of the buildings in the foreground of Hunter’s painting line up, as does the ridge of the harbour,” Mr Bowen added.

“Hunter painted a great deal during the time he lived in Ceres and Lower Largo is a reccurring theme in his works from that period.”

With Hunter’s obsession with light conditions, he often painted scenes and places on several occasions, which is certainly the case with Lower Largo.

And having presented locals with an copy of the painting, many are convinced the harbour is indeed the scene in question.

Thanks to funding from the Frances Reckitt Arts Trust to help with research, Mr Bowen has just spent a week in Fife and Edinburgh finding out more about Hunter’s life and works as well as visiting a number of key locations along the East Neuk.

He even met with Guy Peploe, a director at Edinburgh’s Scottish Gallery and grandson of fellow colourist Samuel Peploe who was a friend of Hunter.

Following a series of trips to Europe, Hunter settled in Fife in 1922, painting prolifically while splitting his time between the Kingdom and Glasgow until he left in 1927.

“He’s probably the least known of the four colourists, but while Peploe, Ferguson and Cadell are more famous for various reasons, Hunter was more prolific, certainly with respect to Fife, and that fascinated me,” said Mr Bowen.

“Most of his paintings are named as to the location or are easily identifiable but ‘Sunrise’ has remained a mystery, and the more I looked into his works the more I was determined to find Hunter’s image for real.”