Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937) was one of the group of four Scottish artists collectively known as “the Scottish Colourists”, the others being Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935), George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931) and John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961) . They were all strongly influenced by French Avant-garde art movements from the early Twentieth Century – the Impressionists, Post Impressionists and Fauvists.
In practice, all four artists had their own individual styles, but the French influences come through, particularly in their early works. The Colourist label is applied because they all used bright, vibrant colours.
The Colourists seem to be the flavour of the month in Scotland at the moment. The Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow is showing an exhibition of work by John Fergusson until 8 January 2012, which we visited earlier this year and there’s a major retrospective of Cadell’s work being shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The latter is the first of a series of exhibitions which will feature each of the Scottish Colourists in turn over the next few years.
We visited the Cadell exhibition a few weeks ago. It has brought together a large number of his works from throughout his career from public and private collections. There are four rooms, three showing paintings in chronological order with the fourth devoted to paintings and sketches he produced during his regular visits to the remote Scottish island of Iona.
The first room shows earlier works from the time when, as a young man, he divided his time between Paris and Edinburgh and from 1907 when he enrolled at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich.
The second and fourth rooms showed how he developed as an artist. The earlier pictures show a very distinctive Impressionist influence. He then began to develop his own style with areas of flat colour and much finer brushwork. There are three dominant themes in these works – still lives, room interiors (often viewed through an open door which frames the view) and portraits of elegant, well dressed, wealthy women. Some of the paintings encompassed two or even all three of these themes.
Interior with opera cloak (Image source: Wikipedia)
Black Hat, Miss Don Wauchope (Image source: Wikipedia)
The Blue Fan (Image source: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)
I quite liked the Impressionist style paintings, although J though that they were second rate. I had mixed feelings about the later works. I liked the pictures of the women. I thought he composed them well and the models seemed alive. I had mixed feelings about the interiors. I liked some but was less keen on others. But I found the still lives uninteresting and the flat two dimensional look didn’t appeal to me.
During the First World War Cadell joined the army and fought in the trenches. He was obviously keen as he was refused when he first volunteered but was accepted when he made a second attempt to join up. During his time in the army he produced some sketches and cartoons, examples of which were on display in Edinburgh. I quite liked these which, composed with a few strokes, seemed to bring out the character of the subjects.
Cadell was a regular visitor to the remote Hebridean island of Iona , which attracted other artists too, including Cadell’s friend fellow Colourist, Samual Peploe. One of the rooms was devoted to works produced while he was on the island. Many of these were drawn from private collections and probably won’t be on public show again in the near future after the exhibition closes in March 2012.
I think Iona brought out the best in Cadell and this was definitely my favourite room in the exhibition. One thing i particularly liked were the series of photographs that were taken from the same viewpoints as a number of the paintings. In most cases there was very little difference between the views shown on the photographs and the paintings, reflecting how little the island has changed over the past 80 years or so.
Iona, looking North; Watercolour, (Image source: Wikipedia)
Iona (Image source: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art)
The exhibition presented an excellent opportunity to gain a good overview of Cadell’s work. However, I came away with mixed feelings. Although I liked some of the paintings and sketches on display, and he is clearly seen as an important Scottish painter, to me, Cadell didn’t come across as a major artist. Having previously seen the Hunter exhibition in Glasgow, I think that the latter was the better, more skilful painter and a much more significant artist. Nevertheless the exhibition was well worth the entry fee. The gallery will be following this with exhibitions devoted to the other Colourists, the next one, due to open In the Autumn of 2012 being devoted to Cadell’s good friend Samuel Peploe.