Coming from a middle class Edinburgh family - his father was a banker - the success of his career was founded on assiduous technical study in Edinburgh and Paris and a wide but profound appreciation of past masters from Frans Hals (he also spent time as a student in Holland) to Edouard Manet. This however was allied to intelligent curiosity about up to the minute developments in avant garde painting in Paris where he spent many of his first years as a professional artist before the first world war. The artists who caught his attention were consistently of the front rank. By 1910 he was painting harbour scenes in Royan that used intense striking colour combinations that Matisse and the Fauves were developing. When he returned to live in Scotland in 1912 his work was as radical as anything being produced in Britain.