Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, R.S.A., R.S.W. (1883-1937)
Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, R.S.A., R.S.W. (1883-1937)

The White Villa - Cassis

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, R.S.A., R.S.W. (1883-1937)
The White Villa - Cassis
signed 'FCB Cadell' (lower centre) and inscribed 'The white villa - Cassis No. 1' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
17 5/8 x 14 5/8 in. (44.7 x 37.2 cm.)
Painted in 1923-24.
G. W. Service, and by descent.
A. Strang, exhibition catalogue, F.C.B. Cadell, Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 2011, n.p., no. 45, illustrated.
Glasgow, Fine Art Society, F.C.B. Cadell, 1883-1937: a Centenary Exhibition, October 1983, no. 39: this exhibition travelled to Edinburgh, Fine Art Society, October - November 1983; and London, Fine Art Society, November - December 1983.
London, Portland Gallery, F.C.B. Cadell, September 2011, no. 60.
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, F.C.B. Cadell, October 2011 - March 2012, no. 45.

Lot Essay

‘I find this part of France most interesting to paint. The light is wonderfully brilliant even fierce – the weather is superb – Basking!’ (Cadell, quoted in A. Strang, exhibition catalogue, F.C.B. Cadell, Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 2011, p. 42).

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell met the Glasgow shipowner G.W. Service on his first visit to Iona in 1912. Returning to the island the following summer, Service purchased his first works by the painter. He was set to become, by far, the artist’s greatest patron with a collection encompassing examples of much of Cadell’s oeuvre. The walls of Service’s two homes in Glasgow and Dumbartonshire were decorated with more than a hundred works by Cadell with paintings by the artist hanging in every room. Cadell would often stay with the family in their house in Cove or join them on their yacht, sailing around the Western Isles. Service’s passion for Cadell’s works is wonderfully summarised in this reflection: ‘Something different from the last’ was irresistible’ (possibly, Service quoted in T. J. Honeyman, Three Scottish Colourists: Peoploe, Cadell, Hunter, London, 1950, p.90). This generous patronage contributed to Cadell’s popularity and prosperity in the 1920s.

Cadell first visited the south of France on a trip in 1923, accompanied by his manservant and companion, Charles Olivier, who he had met during his service in the war. On the way to Cassis they visited Amiens and the Somme Battlefield, before staying at the Château de Castelnau near Nîmes, the ancestral home of the Boileaus, his mother’s family (A. Strang, exhibition catalogue, F.C.B. Cadell, Edinburgh, 2011, National Galleries of Scotland, p. 42). The artist then spent a couple of months in Cassis where he was captured by the vividly coloured houses at the waterfront, the rolling hills of the countryside and the particular quality of the Mediterranean light. In a letter to George Chiene Cadell shares his fascination with Cassis by comparing it to another place close to his heart - Iona:

‘I find this part of France most interesting to paint. The light is wonderfully brilliant even fierce – the weather is superb – Basking! ...This place has several points in common with Iona. The colour and formation of headlands etc and to some extent the sea… Instead of, as in Iona, painting against time and trying to get finished before the next squall of rain, I can work as long as I feel disposed on one thing’ (Cadell, quoted in A. Strang, ibid., p. 42).

Cassis was a source of inspiration for numerous artists – as early as 1888 Paul Signac, wrote to Vincent van Gogh, urging him to go and visit the town (E. Irons, Cassis, A History, unpublished MS in library of the Camargo foundation, which now occupies the site of the Hotel Panorama). Cadell’s fellow Scotsmen, the Colourists, John Duncan Fergusson and Samuel John Peploe were also fascinated by the place and painted there together in 1913. Cadell returned to Cassis in 1924 accompanied by Peploe and his family. A photograph taken by Willie Peploe shows the group in Cassis.

In his works from Cassis, Cadell beautifully captures the bright Mediterranean light and local atmosphere that had previously also inspired Matisse and Derain in the early 1900s. The result is a number of clearly defined compositions which use the expressionistic possibilities of a bold and bright colour palette. The White Villa - Cassis is one of the finest examples of Cadell’s works from this highly creative period.

The bright colours and the contrasts between the clear, cobalt blue sky and the white stone of the villas and ground around, punctuated by the greens of the trees and the red roof tiles evoke the bleached heat of the midday summer sun. The viewer’s eye is drawn to a villa on a hill in the distance, one’s gaze is then playfully lead through the colourful shutters of the white villa dominating the centre of the composition to the lilac shadows cast by the vegetation in the foreground. The bliss of this peaceful summer day is further enhanced by the presence of a female figure resting by the tree in the foreground, painted with just a few quick and expressive brushstrokes of black and bright yellow. It is the same figure we see in another painting from Cassis: The Harbour, Cassis. (A. Strang, ibid., n.p)

The White Villa - Cassis demonstrates Cadell’s visual sophistication. The artist draws on the Impressionist tradition of capturing the otherwise intangible changing quality of light by painting en plein air, whilst also encompassing the use of bright colours, distinctive brushstroke and strong lines more typical of the Fauvists. Cadell achieves a sense of place through the use of local colours: the bright white alluding to the local Cassis stone and limestone hills; terracotta orange for the tiled roofs and dark green for the surrounding vegetation. The White Villa - Cassis embodies Cadell’s masterful ability to extract the true essence of the local land. He imbues his painting with the distinctive atmosphere of this picturesque Mediterranean harbour town.

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