oil on board
Carnations fits into the period of still life painting in the mid 1920s when Cadell painted a series of pictures of table-tops arrayed with objects such as Chinese tea bowls, blooms of flowers in jugs, vases and black fans. These objects are all fairly interchangeable in the paintings of this period and here we see the inclusion of a small black framed portrait miniature hanging on the wall behind the flowers, which can also be observed in another of his paintings entitled The Black Fan. This striking black section directs the eye to the upper right of the composition and perfectly resolves the positioning of the vase just left of centre. The inspiration for many of these paintings was from items in Cadell's own studio, which was described thus: "There was no mistaking the house in Ainslie Place in which Bunty lived... The main rooms, on the ground floor, were large and well proportioned. He used the drawing room as his studio, and painted the walls in a rich mauve colour in sharp contrast to the brilliant white painted woodwork of the panelled, inter-connecting doors. The highly polished dark wooden floor, reflected the bright colours of the carefully placed Whytock and Reid furniture and provided the theme for many of his more dramatic interiors.' (Tom Hewlett, Cadell: The Life and Works of a Scottish Colourist, 1883-1937, 1988, pp.53-54)
The composition and colour scheme in the present work provides an interesting comparison with Still Life, Tulips and Still Life (Tomatoes) also included in the current sale. The structure here is carefully contained with in the pictures framework, presenting the viewer with a perfectly harmonised subject. The geometric lines are created by the stems of the Carnations, the creases of the blue cloth behind the vase and the various shadows which are cast in the composition. The pallet in the current work, centring primarily on blue, green, which and black, is extremely elegant and softer than some of his later experiments with bolder, brighter colour schemes. The painterly brushwork and soft tones in the present painting create the serene, timeless quality that is so typical of Cadell's finest still lives of this period.
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