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

Still Life with Lacquer Screen

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, R.S.A., R.S.W. (1883-1937)
Still Life with Lacquer Screen
signed 'F.C.B. Cadell.' (lower left), signed again and inscribed 'STILL LIFE/by/F.C.B. CADELL' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
23½ x 19½ in. (59.5 x 49.5 cm.)
Painted circa the mid 1920s.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Gleneagles, 29 August 1975, lot 362a.
Private collection.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Gleneagles, 29 August 2007, lot 143.
with Fine Art Society, London, where purchased by the present owner, 2009.
A. Strang, exhibition catalogue, F.C.B. Cadell, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 2011, n.p., no. 56, illustrated.
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, F.C.B. Cadell, October 2011 - March 2012, no. 56.
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Lot Essay

‘Cadell’s compositions became more geometric, his paint application more controlled and his colours increasingly acidic…all shadow and volume is supressed to create a hard-edged pattern of colour which embodies the Art Deco style’ (A. Strang, exhibition catalogue, F.C.B. Cadell, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 2011, p. 40).

Harmonising bold, flat applications of strong vivid colours with a tightly curated composition and clarity of design, Cadell’s Still Life with Lacquer Screen, exemplifies his elegant and striking Edinburgh interiors painted at his home at 6 Ainslie Place in the mid 1920s. Returning from the war Cadell made his greatest stylistic change, developing a notably more solidified colourful aesthetic, structurally geometric, with a considered architectural design as seen in Still Life with a Lacquer Screen. This allure to luxury and colour can be seen as a chosen contrast from the squalor of the trenches.

The Daily Mail compared these new works with his earlier paintings:
‘Mr Cadell was apt to leave his pictures in a state of summary sketchiness which amounted to flippancy. He has solidified his style. All forms are stated with an assurance that carries conviction. He has passed from vague impression to architectonic organisation’ (quoted in T. Hewlett and D. Macmillan, F.C.B Cadell: The Life and Works of a Scottish Colourist, 1883-1937, Farnham, 2011. p. 90).

Cadell lived his life as richly as he painted his works and we can consider his lifestyle and painting style during his years at 6 Ainslie Place as one of the same. His front door was painted a vivid ultramarine. His living room, which was also his studio, was kept fastidiously clean. His furniture was brightly coloured and modern; the floor was painted a glossy black and the walls a rich mauve. The red chair in Still Life with a Lacquer Screen is synonymous with fashionable interior design of the time and most probably bought from Whytock and Reid, who were known for their quality craftsmanship. The colour, organisation and structure of his home is clearly reflected in his delightfully crisp interior paintings. Cadell captured an elegant intelligence in the placement of objects, cropped compositions, juxtaposition of bold flat primary colours as displayed in this Still Life with a Lacquer Screen, reminiscent of the Cubist-faceted compositions. There is not a clear direct relationship between Cadell, the Cubists and the Fauves, although it is often felt that the latter influenced Cadell. He was assuredly aware of the modernist movements, particularly the Japanese prints that inspired so much of the emerging art in Europe.

Arthur Melville had a direct impact on Cadell’s career suggesting that he went to Paris at only sixteen. Cadell was educated at the liberal Académie Julien between 1899 and 1902 and he would have been aware of the innovations of his French contemporaries and the Impressionists’ works that were on view at the Musée du Luxembourg. He would have also been exposed to the Fauve works of Matisse and the Impressionists works at Durand Ruel’s Gallery. The impact of seeing these paintings is clearly visible in Cadell’s earlier works and in his interior paintings of the 1920s.

In Still Life with a Lacquer Screen, we can see this influence in the linear qualities and bright use of saturated colours alongside jet black, which serves to flatten the composition. This technique is also reminiscent of Édouard Manet. Cadell and the other Scottish Colourists were influenced by Japanese art and also inspired by Japanese objects. The lacquer screen in Still Life with a Lacquer Screen also re-emerges in Cadell’s other works of this period, including The Blue Fan, 1922, in which Cadell also includes a fan and an oriental bowl. They both employ the Japanese technique of using the frame to crop the composition.

Cadell’s use of interior objects could have also been influenced by the work of Van Gogh. When Cadell moved to Paris, it was possible that he saw the landmark Van Gogh exhibition that was held at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in 1901. Cadell’s re-occurring use of the bright red chair, painted to look like red lacquer, can be seen as an emblem of his dandy tastes and style. Similarly, Van Gogh frequently painted his own chair as a portrait of himself albeit with a more modest outcome.
Cadell reused similar motifs, colours and arrangements in other works of the period. The objects in Still Life with a Lacquer Screen have striking similarities to The Blue Fan, 1922. The wonderful Japanese Lacquer Screen forms the background, in front of which is a table with a blue jug and the small pink bowl that appears empty. Cadell includes the red chair with a luxurious oriental mauve throw; all are encased in the closely cropped frame. With only the jug, small bowl, and red flower painted in full, the other works are only suggested, in the restricted view that we are given, yet Cadell cleverly describes their form. The simple use of colour with soft pinks, blue and yellows, alongside the vivid red and strong black enlivens the composition giving Still Life with a Lacquer Screen an opulent and invigorated aesthetic.

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