Francis Cadell exhibition in Edinburgh

The Scottish Colourist Series: FCB Cadell

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.

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Interior with opera cloak (Image source: Wikipedia)

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Black Hat, Miss Don Wauchope (Image source: Wikipedia)

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell The Blue Fan − Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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.

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Iona, looking North; Watercolour, (Image source: Wikipedia)

FCB Cadell, Iona − Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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.

Gothic Buildings in Edinburgh New Town

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Edinburgh New Town is renowned as an archetypical example of Georgian town planning and neo-classical architecture. During our recent weekend break we stayed in a hotel there in a street of Georgian town houses built during the second phase of development. The hotel occupied four such houses. However, across the road from the hotel there was a house built in neo-Gothic style with bay windows with gothic tracery and a pointed arch over the door. It stood out as it was very different from the others in the street.

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These were smaller than the grander residences in main thoroughfares and squares in the main part of the New Town and were undoubtedly occupied by the lower middle classes when they were first constructed. I found the dormer windows fascinating. I suspect that they were later additions as they weren’t of a standard design. However, as Georgian developers customised their houses to order I can’t be certain that they weren’t part of the original structure. I’d need to research this further to decide which is the case.

There are a number of Gothic buildings in the New Town. One notable example is the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street. Built in the Venetian Gothic style popularised by Ruskin, the gallery has recently re-opened to the public after being refurbished.

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I spotted another neo-Gothic building at 43 Queen Street, sandwiched between more typical Georgian houses. Today it’s a listed building occupied by a health club, but a little research on the net revealed that it was originally built as a house and was converted to a gothic style church in 1851.

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Georgian House Museum, Edinburgh

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While we were up in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, we visited the Scottish National Trust’s Georgian House Museum at 7 Charlotte Square in the heart of the “New Town”. The adjacent property (No. 6), which is also owned by the Trust, is Bute House, which is the official residence of the Scottish First Minister.

The house was built in 1796 and it was first occupied by John Lamont,  8th Chief of the Clan Lamont, who lived here with his family until 1815. There were only four subsequent owners before the house, along with No.s 5 and 6, was bequeathed to the Scottish National Trust  in 1956 on the death of the last owner, the 5th Marquess of Bute, in lieu of death duties.

The basement and the ground and first floors of the house have been restored to show how they would have looked when it was first occupied. Visitors explore on their own as the Trust doesn’t give guided tours, but there are room guides who are very happy to answer any questions about the house, it’s occupants and life in Edinburgh during the Georgian period. There’s an introductory video shown in the basement which gives the historical and social background.

The house is part of a terrace on the north side of the square that was designed by the famous Scottish architect Robert Adam. As was the fashion, the terrace is designed to look as if it was one complete “palace” influenced by the work of the Italian architect, Andrea Palladio. However, it’s actually made up of a number of individual houses, all with their own entrances.

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It’s actually quite deceptive as the outside decor and ornamentation doesn’t reflect the way the terrace is divided up into individual houses. So looking at the picture below of the centre of the terrace, it seems as if it is one large symmetrical property made up of 7 bays – 3 bays in the centre under the triangular pediment supported with columns with two bays to either side, the outermost bays also with columns. In fact only the middle 3 bays belong to the central property. The two bays on either side belong to the adjacent properties (the Georgian house museum, at No. 7 on the left) which also comprise 3 bays.

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The exterior of the house is much grander than the Georgian House museum in Dublin that we visited least year and which was part of a development aimed at the middle class. The houses on Charlotte Square were meant for the nobility such as John Lamont, part of the Scottish landed aristocracy. However, he seems to have been living somewhat above his means and didn’t have enough money to decorate the house as  much as he would probably had liked. The inside of Georgian houses such as these was a “blank canvas”. The purchaser had to specify what “extras” they wanted such as decorative mouldings, cornices and ceilings, all of which would come at a price. However the ceilings and walls inside No 7 are relatively plain reflecting the Lamont’s strained budget.

My favourite two rooms were the kitchen in the Basement and the Drawing Room on the first floor.  The Trust have attempted to recreate a Georgian kitchen with all the appropriate pots, pans and other utensils and there’s an open range fire (not the original)with a hot air powered spit turner. The Drawing Room, which was the main room used to entertain visitors, is on the first floor – the “piano nobile”. It’s a large room across the full width of the house with the large windows overlooking the square. In Lamont’s time it would have overlooked a building site as the square was still a work in progress when they moved in. Although the ceiling is relatively plain, there is a decorated cornice and grand chandelier.

48 hours in Edinburgh

Last weekend we decided to take a short break in Edinburgh. We’d had a couple of day trips to Glasgow, and I’d been up to Inverness on business twice, earlier this year, so this was the third Scottish city I’d visited in 2011.

There’s plenty of accommodation in Edinburgh, but it doesn’t come cheap, especially if you book it relatively close to the date of the visit, as we did. It isn’t as expensive as London, but still pricey compared to some other British cities. Mind you, the cost of hotels and B and B’s seems to have shot up everywhere over the last few years.

We arrived on a cloudy Friday afternoon and after we’d checked into our hotel and were setting off towards the Old Town, it started to rain. Edinburgh can look a bit grim under grey skies and it continued to rain (quite heavily at times) for most of the afternoon, but it started to clear around 4 o’clock and stayed fine, with clear skies, for the rest of the weekend, the low northern sun showing off the city to good effect. The downside of sunny days at this time of e year in Scotland is that the temperature will be low, particularly after sunset. However, wrapped up warm we were able to enjoy walking around the streets of the “Athens of the north”, a title it’s earned due to the proliferation of Classical style buildings in the New Town, built during the Georgian period. It’s a fairly relaxed city, safe enough to walk around even at night, providing you don’t stray too far off the beaten path. The people are friendly, even if some of the locals can be a little difficult to understand at times!

There’s no shortage of places to eat, a wide variety of tastes being catered for. We noticed that there were a particularly large number of Italian restaurants, reflecting the large number of Italian immigrants who settled in Scotland during the 20th Century. However, we ate in a Japanese style restaurant, Yes Sushi the first night of our stay and Turkish, at Nargile during our second night. Both on Hanover Street, not too far from our Hotel. There didn’t seem to be many Scottish restaurants, though.

As Scotland’s capital, there’s plenty to see and do – far too much for a short stay. We’re unusual in that we didn’t visit the Castle and the other most well known attractions. Instead we chose to visit the Scottish Parliament building on Friday afternoon, spent most of Saturday at the Scottish Modern Art Museum and visited the Scottish National Trust’s Georgian House on Charlotte Square On Sunday morning. The rest of the time we spent wandering round the streets of the Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town looking at the architecture.