The Scottish Colourists – Part 2, Francis Cadell

Self Portrait by Francis Cadell (c.1914)
Self Portrait by Francis Cadell (c.1914)

In my last blog, I introduced you to the four painters who would later become known as the Scottish Colourists.  In that first blog I looked at the life of Samuel Peploe and today I am concentrating on the life and works of another member of the group, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell.   Cadell was born in Edinburgh in April 1883.  His father was Francis Cadell, an Edinburgh surgeon and his mother was Mary Boileau, a lady of French extraction.  His sister was Jean Cadell,  who would later become a well-known character actress.   As a boy, Cadell showed an aptitude for drawing and was educated at the Edinburgh Academy where he studied art.  When he was sixteen years of age and had completed his studies, on the advice of the Scottish landscape and figure painter, Arthur Melville, who was also the godfather to Cadell’s younger brother, Cadell went to Paris, chaperoned by his mother,  in order to study art at the Académie Julian.   He remained at the Academy for three years, during which time his exposure to the works of French artists of the time was to have an intense and enduring effect on his paintings.   During his first year at the Academy he was delighted to have one of his watercolours accepted for exhibiting at that year’s Paris Salon.  Whilst he was studying in the French capital he met one of the other Scottish Colourists, Samuel Peploe, and the two soon became friends.  The artwork of Peploe, who was twelve years his senior, was to prove to be a great influence on his work.

Mythical Scene by Francis Cadell (c.1907)
Mythical Scene by Francis Cadell (c.1907)

Cadell returns to Scotland in 1902 and, for the first time, exhibited work at the Royal Scottish Academy.  The genre of his works was varied.  He painted portraits as well as landscapes and also dabbled with mythical subjects, such as his work entitled Mythical Scene which he completed around 1907.  In 1906 he and his family moved to Munich and the following year he enrolled at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich.  A year later, in 1908, his mother died and the family returned home to Edinburgh.  That year, Cadell held his first one-man show at the gallery of the Edinburgh picture dealers, Doig, Wilson and Wheatley.  Cadell remained in Edinburgh until 1914, with just a brief time away on a painting trip to Venice, a city, which provided him with the ideal setting for his natural aptitude as a colourist.  Cadell loved everything about Edinburgh and was impressed by the city’s buildings.  He loved the beautiful architecture and the sumptuous interiors of some of the houses.  He was also very much in love with the stylishness and sophistication of its people and wanted to be part of that world.  In 1909, having established himself within Edinburgh society as a colourful, witty and entertaining host, he moved his studio to Great George Street and it was within the lavish interior of his residence that he held his regular soirées and entertained the “beautiful people” of Edinburgh.

Many of his paintings, which he completed in his Edinburgh studio before the war and during the 1920’s, often featured elegant female sitters with the backdrop, the interior of his impressive studio and these works were to become some of his best loved.  Cadell spent much time over the decoration and furnishing of his residence and before the war and throughout the 1920s, most of the paintings that he made at home centred on depictions of his studios or arrangements of elegant female models or still life objects within them. The works of the immediate pre-war period conjure up a sense of the refined lifestyle of Edinburgh’s upper-class, depicted with a palette which brightened as the war approached.

Iona by Francis Cadell
Iona by Francis Cadell

In 1912, Cadell made his first visit to the small Western Isle of Iona and fell in love with the beauty of the wild landscape.  He found it an ideal place for painting because of the light, the colours of the white sand beaches and blue skies, and Iona’s geological diversity resulting in differing coloured rock formations.  The rapid changing weather conditions around this area meant an en plein air artist had to work swiftly, but it was all worthwhile as the numerous stunning views provided plenty of incentive for keen artists.   The island of Iona is low-lying and this results in the light reflected from the surrounding sea intensifying the colour of the water as well as the green of its pastureland.  However, Cadell was of the opinion that any artist with any real sense of colour could only paint in Scotland during the summer and so he chose to work on Iona during the summer months, usually en plein air, and he would remain in Edinburgh and work in his studio during the darker days of spring and early autumn.   A fine example of his Iona paintings highlighting the differing colours of the sea, rocks and sand was completed by him in 1920 and simply entitled Iona.  After the First World War, Cadell would make annual pilgrimages to the island.   He was not the only artist at the time to be drawn to the beauty of this Inner Hebridean Island as it attracted many other artists, including the Scottish Colourists, Peploe and Fergusson, and the Scottish landscape artist, John MacLauchlin Milne.  In 1912 Cadell founded the Society of Eight.  This was a group of like-minded artists, who rejected the artistic establishment of the day and, whose work was characterised by the use of bright colours.

In 1914 he applied to join the army but was turned down on medical grounds so for the next few months he took work on a farm as a labourer with the intention of improving his physical condition and fitness.   All the exercise must have worked for in 1915 he re-applied to join the army and this time he was accepted and became a member of the 9th Argyll, 9th Royal Scots and the Sutherland Highlanders.

Portrait of a Lady in Black by Francis Cadell
Portrait of a Lady in Black by Francis Cadell

In 1921 Cadell completed one of his most popular works entitled Portrait of a Lady in Black.  The sitter for this painting was his long-time muse, the enigmatic and mysterious, Miss Bethia Don Wauchope, who over a period of fifteen years, posed for twenty five paintings by Peploe and Cadell.   In this work the setting is almost certainly the artist’s Ainslie Place studio in Edinburgh which Cadell had moved to the previous year.   Miss Bethia Don Wauchope was a wealthy heiress of independent means.   Little is known about Cadell’s muse accept that she was the eldest of four daughters, who never married and her father was Sir John Don-Wauchope, chairman of the Board of Education and Board of Lunacy.  There is no doubt that she loved the thought of being immortalised in paintings.   This was one of Cadell’s favourite works and we know he loved to work with Bethia  as he went on to create a series of paintings with the theme ‘Lady in a Black Hat’, which included, Black Hat, Miss Don Wauchope, The Black Hat and  in 1925 (Lady in Black) and 1926 (Interior, the Orange Blind).

The Harbour, Cassis by Francis Cadell (1924)
The Harbour, Cassis by Francis Cadell (1924)

In 1923 Cadell embarked on a painting trip to the beautiful small seaside town of Cassis, on the French Mediterranean coast. The following year he produced some of his most radiant Colourist works while staying with fellow Colourist, Peploe.   One of the works he painted there in 1923/4 was entitled The Harbour, Cassis and cleverly reflects the harsh Mediterranean light and the effect it has the surrounding buildings.  Here the sun is so intense and the colours more vibrant.  It is truly an artist’s paradise.  (I was fortunate to visit this idyllic place a few years ago and was amazed by its charm and beauty).

Like most good things in life – they seem to have to end, and for Francis Cadell his lavish lifestyle in Edinburgh, which we saw reflected in many of his paintings of elegant women and opulent interiors,  came to an end with the decline of the art market during the economic downturn of the late 1920s.  Cadell, who had led a somewhat pampered and indulgent way of life was, like many others, badly affected financially and he was forced to sell part of his multi-storeyed Ainslie Place property.  Things deteriorated further in the early 1930’s and sales of his works dwindled and he was even forced to move to a less expensive and salubrious residence.

In 1935 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Watercolours and the following year he was made an Academician of the Royal Scottish Academy.   Sadly, by 1936, his health was starting to decline and the following year, 1937, Cadell died, aged 54, the cause being given as cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.

The Scottish Colourists – Part 1, S.J.Peploe

Self-portrait by S.J.Peploe (c.1900)
Self-portrait by S.J.Peploe (c.1900)

It has often been the case that artists have been compartmentalised into groups which is then given an elaborate name.  The name is, more often or not, one which has not been made up by them but has come from an external source.  We know that Monet, Renoir, Degas and Sisley, to name just a few, did not sit around a French café table and come up with the name Impressionists for their group.  In fact the name Impressionists came from Louis Leroy, the art critic, journalist and some time contributor to the illustrated Parisian newspaper, Le Charivari.   In 1874, he had gone along to an exhibition of works by a group of artists which was being held at the photographer Nadar’s studio in the French capital.  The group of painters called themselves the Société anonyme des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs, (The Anonymous society of painters, sculptors and engravers).  One of the paintings being exhibited was Claude Monet’s 1872 work entitled Impression: Soleil levant (Impression: Sunrise).  The title of Leroy’s review, in the April 27th edition of le Charivari, Exhibition of Impressionists, was taken directly from the title of Monet’s work.  Leroy’s review took the form of a fictional dialogue between two people who were viewing the exhibits with a measure of cynicism and disbelief at what they saw.     Commenting on Monet’s work one said:

 “…Impression I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it — and what freedom, what ease of workmanship!   A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape…”

Another example of this naming of a group of artists by somebody from outside the circle was that of the Fauves   The Fauves were a small group of artists who in the early 1900’s burst onto the French art scene with their wild, vibrant style that shocked their critics.  The name of the group was not thought up by the artists of the group such as Matisse, Derrain or Vlaminck but the term came from the influential but acerbic French art critic, Louis Vauxcelles, who first gave the group of painters the name les Fauves (the wild beasts).  The name came from a comment he made when he went to see the 1905 Salon d’Automne exhibition.  Their paintings were on display in the same room as a classical sculpture by Donatello.  Vauxcelles decried their offerings in comparison to the classical sculpture by saying that the sculpture was Donatello parmi les fauves (Donatello amongst wild beasts).

 In my next couple of blogs I am going to look at the works of four Scottish painters who were influenced by the French Impressionists and Fauvists and who exhibited their works in the early part of the twentieth century. It was not until almost twenty years later, in 1948, that the four painters were grouped together under the name “The Scottish Colourists” by the director of the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow, Dr. Tom Honeyman, by which time three of the four painters were dead.  The four artists, often referred to by just the initials of their Christian names and their surnames, were Francis Campbell Boileau (F.C.B.) Cadell, Samuel John (S.J.) Peploe, John Duncan (J.D.) Fergusson and George Leslie (G.L.) Hunter.  This group of painters took up the mantle of Scottish art previously held by the group of Scottish painters, known as the Glasgow Boys, in the last decade of the nineteenth century.

S.J. Peploe, the eldest of the four, was born in Edinburgh in 1871.  He was the son of Robert Luff Peploe, an assistant secretary of the Commercial Bank of Scotland and his second wife, Anne.  He was educated at the Collegiate School in Edinburgh.  He was undecided as to what future path he should take and after finishing at school.  At one time he thought a military career was the career he wanted.  Then he considered a career in the church and ended up with a position as an apprentice in the Edinburgh legal firm of Scott & Glover.  He was unhappy in that work and decided to become an artist and in 1891 enrols at the Edinburgh School of Art.  Three years later Peploe heads for Paris to broaden his artistic education, where he lodges with another Scottish artist who was studying in Paris, the Aberdeen–born painter, Robert Brough who had been a fellow student with Peploe in Edinburgh.  In 1894 Peploe begins his studies at L’Académie Julian under the French Academic painter, William Bouguereau and at L’Académie Colarossi.  In 1895 Peploe visited Holland and is fascinated by the works of Frans Hals and brought back a number of reproductions of the Dutch artist’s works which he puts on the walls of his lodgings.

The Green Blouse by Samuel Peploe (c. 1904)
The Green Blouse by Samuel Peploe (c. 1904)

One of Peploe’s works which shows the influence of Frans Hals was a painting Peploe completed around 1904 entitled The Green Blouse.  The sitter for this portrait was Jeannie Blyth, a gypsy flower seller.  Peploe had used this teenager on a number of occasions.  It is thought that her dark colouring and total “at ease” attitude, as a sitter, made her the perfect model.

In 1895 Peploe returns to Scotland and takes up lodgings there and acquires a studio in Edinburgh.  He enrols in the Royal Scottish Academy life classes and went on to be awarded the Maclaine Watters medal for winning the RSA Art Prize.   The following year he exhibits work at both the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh and the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts.  Besides these two great artistic establishments there were other chances for up-and-coming new artists to exhibit their works.  One such place was the private gallery of the Edinburgh fine art dealers, Aitken Dott & Son who afforded Peploe his first solo exhibition in 1903.  Later, the other three Scottish Colourists would have solo exhibitions at this establishment.   In the summer of 1905 Peploe and fellow Scottish Colourist, Fergusson travel to Brittany on a painting trip and carry on their artistic tour taking in the sights of Dieppe, Paris and Paris-Plage.

The Lobster by S.J.Peploe (c.1903)
The Lobster by S.J.Peploe (c.1903)

It was around this time that Peploe started to paint still-lifes.  Peploe spent large amount time in the preparation for his still-life works even though the subject matter itself was not complicated.  His brother in law Frederick Porter wrote about Peploe’s obsession with his detailed preliminaries before starting painting and his struggle for perfection.  He wrote:

“… All his still lifes were carefully arranged and considered before he put them on canvas.  When this was done – it often took several days to accomplish – he seemed to have absorbed everything necessary for transmitting them to canvas.   The result was a canvas covered without any apparent effort.   If a certain touch was wrong it was soon obliterated by the palette knife.  The whole canvas had to be finished in one painting so as to preserve complete continuity.  If, in his judgement, it was not right then the whole painting was scrapped and painted again…”

The Lobster was one of Peploe’s still life paintings which he completed around 1903 and in this work there is a sense of drama in the way he has contrasted the strongly coloured objects against a dark background.  Look at the unusual way Peploe has included his vertical signature in the right hand side of the painting.  In some ways it looks like a vertical column of Japanese script and the colour scheme used, red, yellow and black as well as the sheen of the work affords it an effect which is very like the Japanese lacquer-work.  A few blogs ago, I talked about how all things Japanese had become very popular in the late nineteenth century in Europe.  This “craze” known as Japonisme was also becoming popular in Britain, and due to the Japonisme works of Whistler, it was influencing many artists including painters from Scotland, such as the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists.

In 1910 Peploe married Margaret Makay and the couple moved to Paris.  His son Willy was born that year.  He remained in France and carries on with his painting.  In June 1912 Peploe moves his family from Paris and takes up residence in Edinburgh and in 1914 his second son, Denis is born.   In 1917 after a number of solo exhibitions he is elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy and ten years later is elected as a member of the Royal Scottish Academy.  In 1928 he has an exhibition in New York at the Kraushaar Galleries.  In 1933, as well as continuing with his own painting, he taught the advanced life-class students at Edinburgh College.

 Samuel John (S.J.) Peploe died in October 1935, aged 64.

In my next blog I will look at the life of Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, another of the Scottish Colourists.