FERGUSON, William Gowe
(b. ca. 1633, Scotland, d. after 1695, Scotland)


William Gowe (or Gouw) Ferguson, Scottish painter, 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.

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).

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 favourite subject.