Chris J Fergusson (Chris Stark)

The life and works of a Dumfries & Galloway artist

Later Years

The Second World War brought much sorrow and many difficulties. In March 1941 her husband David, who had been a strong and patient support, died suddenly aged 68. On 16 February 1945 her only son, by now Captain John Fergusson, K.O.S.B., serving with the 52nd Lowland Division in Holland was mortally wounded in fierce fighting in the Reichswald Forest on the Dutch/German border during final preparations for the crossing of the Rhine, and died two days later, aged only 23. Mrs Fergusson’s daughters were married and living away from Dumfries and to a large extent she had to face these terrible blows alone. Despite failing health, her youthful spirit seemed to remain undaunted. She continued to send work to the R.S.A., S.S.A. and R.G.l. In August 1952, aged 76, she organised a retrospective Exhibition of 116 of her works at St John’s Hall, Dumfries, her first one woman show for 25 years. The Exhibition was opened by her friend, the artist Cecile Walton, then President of the Dumfries and Galloway Fine Art Society. In a poem entitled “Letter from Dumfries, 1940” published in 1954, a well known local poet, James Urquhart, paid tribute to her depictions of the Nith, Maxwelltown, and Devorgilla’s Bridge in a lyrical description of Dumfries and the echoes of its history, stretching back to the time of Robert the Bruce.

 In 1955 Mrs Fergusson presided at the opening in Dumfries of an Arts Council retrospective exhibition of the work of her friend and namesake J.D. Fergusson, one of the four Scottish Colourists whose work she had admired long before the Colourist style had become generally accepted by the public.

On 6 January 1957 she suffered a stroke and died at Dumfries Infirmary. She is buried beside her beloved David in the High Cemetery, Dumfries, on a hillside with a view across the Nith towards her home in Maxwelltown and the Mabie Hills beyond. 

A Memorial Exhibition of her work was held at Gracefield Art Centre, Dumfries, in May 1957 which. she shared with Cecile Walton, who had died the previous year. 36 of Fergusson’s best works were shown. 

The artist’s home, with its Art Nouveau atmosphere, was sold soon after and its contents dispersed, at a time when Art Nouveau had become ‘out of fashion’.

 In 1986 an Exhibition of 70 of her works, which attracted much local interest, was held in conjunction with the Dumfries Arts Festival and the Burgh’s Octocentenary Celebrations. “The Scotsman” critic, Edward Gage, reviewing this show, described her work as “delightful” and commented on the strength of her landscapes in oils, particularly those with a bold impasto effect. The venue was the newly opened Robert Burns Centre,The Old Town Mill, Dumfries, which had been a favourite subject of her painting.This was followed by an Exhibition of 41 works at Broughton House, Kirkcudbright, the home of E.A. Hornel.