It’s been seventy years since there was a solo exhibition of FCB Cadell’s work in a public gallery, the last being a retrospective held at the National Gallery of Scotland in 1942 – which makes the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s current exhibition of Cadell’s work fairly special.

Along with GL Hunter, JD Fergusson and SJ Peploe, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell was one of the Scottish Colourists, whose work appeared in the 1920s and 30s.  Despite their work having limited recognition in the period between the Second World War and the 1980s, they are now recognised as some of the most important figures in the history and development of Scottish art, building on the work of their more well-known predecessors, The Glasgow Boys.  Training in France, they were influenced by Cezanne, Matisse and Monet, and integrated the strength and vibrancy of colour evident in those artists’ work into their own.


At the age of 16 Cadell left Scotland for France, where he studied at the Academie Julian in Paris, during which time he was especially influenced by the work of Matisse.  Upon his return to Scotland he settled in Edinburgh’s New Town, the interiors of which, along with the Isle of Iona became one of his favourite subjects.  He’s also particularly well known for painting the ladies of high society, often depicted in those vivid New Town interiors, wearing hats – his works The Orange Blind and Portrait of a Lady in Black are perhaps two of the best examples of this.

The vibrancy of colour in his work extended to his life; Cadell himself was known as the “gay Colourist” and had a reputation in Edinburgh society circles as a dandy.  He served in the First World War, after which time he found it more and more difficult to sell his work due to the difficulties of the economic climate.  However, it was also during this period that he spent most time on Iona, visiting for entire summers with fellow colourist SJ Peploe, and where it could be said he felt most at home.

FCB Cadell - Interior.


In the summer of 2009 two pieces dating from his post-WW1 period – The Red Plate and Tulips – emerged from private collections.  The Red Plate was given by the artist to his sister and had remained in the family, and Tulips had been bought by Cadell’s dealer, in whose family the piece had also remained.

There are 80 pictures in the exhibition, which cover the span of his career and include well-known favourites (including The Orange Blind) as well as early drawings.  This exhibition is part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s Scottish Colourists series, with the works of Peploe being exhibited in the autumn of 2012, and that Fergusson in the autumn of 2013.

The exhibition runs from now until the 18th March 2012, tickets are £7 / £5, and free for the under 12s.  More information can be found on the National Galleries website here: