Such was the precocity of Cadell's artistic talent as a child that he encountered little opposition in his pursuit of the arts. Initially training at art school in Edinburgh, Cadell spent three years in Paris at the turn of the century. Such experience exposed the young artist to the progressive ideas of the avant-garde and immersed him in the inspirational legacy of the Impressionists and their circle. Arriving in Paris aged just 16, Cadell achieved early success, first exhibiting a watercolour at the Salon in 1899.
Cadell's early work appears to draw its inspiration from Parisian art. Works such as Assembly Rooms (1908), demonstrate Cadell painting in an immediate, impressionistic manner using light itself to create form. Paris was very much the centre of the art world during this period and provided the training ground for many artists. Paris gave Scottish artists of this period a revolutionary palette and techinique that was particularly well received by the more erudite clients from their homeland with an appreciation of French style. Cadell is now associated with his Scottish contemporaries, S.J. Peploe, J.D. Fergusson and G.L. Hunter. Though their styles draw near at various points in history it seems that the Scottish Colourists, as they are now known, never actually painted together as a group. However, Cadell was great friends with Peploe, with whom he visited Iona, a small island just off Mull in the Western Isles, year after year (see lot 198). The light of Iona as well as its peace must have been attractive to the artist since its situation benefits from the clement weather of the Gulf Stream during late summer months. Iona proved an endless source of inspiration and site of regeneration for Cadell. It seems natural too that Cadell should choose to visit Venice in 1910, renowned for its glorious light which has inspired many generations of artists.
Cadell continued to paint during the war, having failed his medical due to a smoker's heart. Instead he concentrated on providing exhibitions with the newly formed Society of Eight seeing it as his duty to provide the public with some beauty and distraction from the terrible world events. This positive attitude pervades his art and as Guy Peploe comments, 'Whether he was painting landscape, still life, interiors or figures, there was in it a glow of health and beauty' (G. Peploe, F.C.B.Cadell, A Critical Memoir, see T. Hewlett, Cadell, The Life and Works of a Scottish Colourist 1883-1937, London, 1988, p. 12.).
Still life, roses in a vase is a product of Cadell's later style which became increasingly angular after the First World War, composed of crisper, sharper forms. Shafts of light fracture the surface of the painting creating dramatic contrasts, increasing the sense of three-dimensionality. Here the ice-pink roses are bathed with light and radiate jewel-like from the sumptuous blues and ebony. Conceived as a whole, this painting is an exceptional piece of design. Using cubist techniques, space has been divided into a complicated mesh of planes which seem to splinter in the eye of the viewer. The design is compact and neatly composed, if dramatically conceived. Cadell often used black in the centre of his compositions which enhanced this effect, providing the desired degree of contrast for which he was aiming.
Cadell's mature style was much acclaimed. In 1923, after a successsful first exhibition in London along with Peploe and Hunter, The Daily Mail commented approvingly that, '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 architectoric [sic] organisation' (see T. Hewlett, op. cit., p. 61).