The official public re-opening of Edinburgh’s City Art Centre on the 12th September 2020 will be marked with a new exhibition exploring the work of Scottish artists during the 1920s – an evocative period of social, political and economic change.

Bright Shadows: Scottish Art in the 1920s‘ is timed to mark 100 years since the dawn of the ‘Roaring Twenties’. The exhibition showcases over 35 artworks selected from the City Art Centre’s own collection of fine art, including oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, etchings and sculptures. Featured artists include D.Y. Cameron, Stanley Cursiter, Dorothy Johnstone, William McCance, Eric Robertson and William Wilson, as well as the Scottish Colourists S.J. Peploe and J.D. Fergusson.

For many, the 1920s is an era that conjures up images of Art Deco design, jazz music and flapper dresses. Yet this is only one side of the story. It was a decade of contrasts: high spirits interwoven with sombre contemplation, and grand aspirations tempered by hard realities. Some people reflected on the recent losses of the First World War, while others looked forward to an age of new possibilities and opportunities. Scottish artists experienced these contrasts first-hand, and responded to them in a variety of ways.

One of the highlights of the show is the painting Cecile Walton at Crianlarich (1920) by Eric Robertson. This striking portrait of the artist Cecile Walton is a brand-new addition to the City Art Centre’s collection. It arrived in late 2019 as a long-term loan from a private collector, and goes on public display for the first time as part of Bright Shadows.

The exhibition will also feature A Garment of War (c.1926) by D.Y Cameron, which is being shown for the first time since recent conservation work to restore the painting to its original splendour.

Bright Shadows shines a light on this fascinating period, exploring the styles, ideas and events that shaped artistic practice in Scotland. The exhibition brings together work by a range of artists, from mature figures like George Henry and S.J. Peploe who were already well-recognised and celebrated, to younger talents like William Johnstone and James McIntosh Patrick who were just beginning to forge their own creative paths.

Curator Dr Helen Scott said: ‘People often think they know the 1920s, as a golden age of jazz music, Art Deco fashion and Bright Young Things. But it wasn’t all hedonism and decadent excess. It was a complex period of great social, political and economic change – all of which had a significant bearing on art and artists in Scotland.

“Curating this exhibition has been a brilliant opportunity to really focus on a particular time period within the City Art Centre’s collection, and draw out new stories and perspectives. I’m really looking forward to sharing these wonderful artworks with our visitors, as museums and galleries begin to reopen after lockdown.’

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Community Convener, said: “It’s great that our City Art Centre will be able to welcome visitors back very soon. I believe that throughout lockdown, art and cultural activities have been an escape for many and I’m delighted that people will be able to once again see the fantastic exhibition and artworks in person.

“Bright Shadows is timed to mark 100 years since the dawn of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and is a fascinating insight into the styles, and events of this period. I’m very much looking forward to the exhibition and to welcoming visitors back when we reopen next week.

“I’d like to reassure people that we have taken measures to ensure the safety of visitors and our staff. We all continue to have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others so would ask everyone to follow the latest guidance and not to visit if showing any symptoms of coronavirus.”

Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan, Culture and Community Vice Convener, said: “The 1920s were a key moment in art history, with influences that resonate to this day, including the emergence of the Surrealists, such famous names as Salvador Dali, Max Ernest, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy and Joan Miro, as well as women artists who’ve only gained recognition in recent decades – Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini and Dorothea Tanning, while the dawning Abstract and Neo-Expressionist movements revealed the works of Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky.

“But Scotland was very much enjoying a thriving burst of artistic energy through the work of the Scottish Colourists, who adapted the vibrant colour palette of contemporary French painting into a distinctive Scottish approach through the 20s and 30s – artists like Francis Cadell and Samuel Peploe, Leslie Hunter and John Duncan Fergusson. One of the real joys of celebrating 40 years of our City Art Centre is the chance to celebrate the breadth and wealth of our collection of these iconic painters”.

In keeping with Government advice in order to protect and maintain the safety of our visitors and staff, the City Art Centre has introduced a range of new safety measures and procedures throughout the venue, including a one way system, installation of screens at reception, hand sanitiser stations, extra barriers and signage and staff will of course be wearing visors while offering visitors a very warm, socially distanced welcome.

Visitors are asked wear face coverings and to pre-book free tickets for allocated time slots in advance via

Bright Shadows: Scottish Art in the 1920s‘ opens on Saturday 12 September 2020, and runs until 6 June 2021. Admission is free, pre-booking online essential.

The exhibition is accompanied by a varied programme of public events and activities, including tours, lectures and creative workshops. All events must be booked in advance. To book please visit

Dates and Times

12 September 2020 – 6 June 2021
City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE
Free Admission, pre-booking essential