Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell R.S.A., R.S.W.
- Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell R.S.A., R.S.W.
- indistinctly signed l.l.
- oil on canvas (sold with its original slip frame)
‘His pre-occupation with natural beauty and the colour that created it was a major force in helping Scottish painting to shed the stylistic restrictions of the nineteenth century and to lay the foundation of a Colourist tradition that has helped to place twentieth century Scottish artists in the vanguard of the modern European movement.’ (Tom Hewlett, Cadell: A Scottish Colourist, 1988, p.100)
Of the four Scottish Colourists, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell was the most consistently sophisticated in his evocations of refined elegance, quiet contemplation and refracting light. A man of consummate taste, his colour harmonies are always subtle and well balanced and in the present interior, the cool greys and whites are punctuated with bright accents of pink and blue in the porcelain and flowers on the mantelpiece and the warm tones of the girl’s flushed cheeks and red lipstick. The fireplace and over-mantle mirror give a geometric structure to the composition, echoing the shape of the canvas and creating a background upon which Cadell has arranged the figure directly in the centre, cutting the pictorial space in a dramatic perpendicular column of warm grey. The voluptuous curves of the sofa’s arm and the top of the coal-scuttle contrast with the angularity of the fire-place and the arrayed picture-frames leaning against the walls. The paint has been applied with rapid strokes, giving a shimmering quality to the image as though light were vibrating from the gleaming white walls and the glimmering surfaces of brass, silk and silver.
The setting is the elegant drawing room of 130 George Street, Cadell’s Edinburgh home and studio with its stark and modern colour scheme of white-painted walls and floor painted glossy black. Cadell’s furniture was predominantly black or white which emphasised the colour of the brightly-hued silk cushions, vases of flowers and Cadell’s own paintings which hung on the walls and stood unfinished on the floors. The studio was a reflection of the dramatic and glamorous modernism of Cadell’s art in his pre-war period, when his paintings have an Impressionistic verve which later became translated into a more hard-edged Art Deco style with black outlines and swathes of primary colour.
Reflections is part of a series of pictures painted by Cadell between 1913, when he moved into 130 George Street and 1915, when he was sent to serve on the French front. It is difficult to date the picture categorically. Another painting entitled Reflections, depicting a woman dressed in the same grey coat and white gloves looking into the over-mantle mirror has been dated to 1913, whilst the painting that most closely relates to the present picture, Reflections (Summer) has been dated c.1915. The fact that the items arranged on the mantelpiece in Reflections (Summer) are in identical positions to the present picture points toward them being painted in the same year.
The model was Miss Bertia Don Wauchope, Cadell’s muse for at least fifteen years. Cadell appears to have first met Bertia when she was thirty-five in 1911, a year in which he was expanding his artistic repertoire and painting society portraits. Unlike the professional models that worked for many of the Royal Scottish Academicians, Don Wauchope (1864-1944) was a lady of independent means who posed for Cadell because she wanted to be painted, rather than because she was paid to do so. It is possible therefore that she had initially been introduced to Cadell in order for him to paint her portrait as a commission. Alternatively, she may have met Cadell at one of the society events a portrait painter is expected to attend to gain introductions to potential patrons. Whatever the circumstances of their introduction, the pictures he painted of her were not society portraits and were intended to be studies of a more abstract aristocratic elegance. This refinement permeated Cadell’s entire aesthetic, from the sophisticated still lifes and interiors, to his own elegant and flamboyant dress and Edinburgh home which was decorated with beautiful objects, paintings and furniture.
Miss Don Wauchope’s first significant appearance in Cadell’s art was in Afternoon of 1913 (Sotheby’s, Gleneagles, 30 August 1988, lot 1087), a painting of three women taking tea in his studio, which combines elements of John Singer Sargent, James Abbott McNeil Whistler and John Lavery’s approaches to figure painting. The picture is undoubtedly beautiful but the women’s faces are undefined and shadowed and it is implied that their presence is to suggest abstract elegance rather than individuality. Around the same time that Cadell completed Afternoon he began a series of paintings of interiors featuring Don Wauchope wearing various black hats, including The Black Hat (Sotheby’s, 14 April 2004, lot 110) and The Black Hat, Miss Don Wauchope (Sotheby’s, 26 April 2007, lot 211). The best-known of this series is The Black Hat of c.1913 (City Art Centre, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries) in which Bertia adopts an almost mirror image of the pose as the present picture, with one hand resting nonchalantly upon her hip and the other on a fan rather than draped over the edge of the mantle-piece. In The Black Hat the costume of the model is elaborate, with a frilled yellow gown and the eponymous cloche hat decorated with an ostentatious bird’s wing. By 1915, when the present picture is thought to have been painted, Cadell had refined Miss Don Wauchope’s dress to a more simple style which emphasises her slenderness.
The impressive size of this painting makes it highly likely that the picture was exhibited either in Glasgow or Edinburgh but the vague titles of pictures exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Glasgow Institute makes identification of this picture difficult. It is possible that this picture can be identified with Interior with Figure exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1915 or a picture of the same title exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute in 1917. Any of the three works exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1917, At the Mantlepiece, Interior or Reflection might be the present picture. The most likely exhibit, however, is the picture titled Reflection exhibited at the Glasgow Institute in 1915. This picture was for sale with a price of £170, considerably more than any other picture that Cadell had shown there before. In the same exhibition Crème de Menthe was priced at £100 which suggests that Reflections was a significantly larger picture.
The confident and relaxed pose adopted by the woman was a traditional stance for sitters in formal portraiture, such as John Singer Sargent’s portrait of the Earl of Dalhousie painted in 1900 (private collection). The colour scheme of whites and greyish-mauve and the fact that the young Earl was a Scotsman, makes it tempting to speculate whether Sargent’s portrait may have had a direct influence upon Cadell’s painting. Another source of inspiration appears to have been Symphony in White by James Abbot McNeill Whistler which was widely regarded as a masterpiece of the Aesthetic movement in the 1870s and influenced many younger artists. Cadell’s series of interiors follow in the tradition that many artists from Velasquez to Manet had exploited the artistic conceit of being able to display two aspects of a woman’s beauty by showing her reflection in a mirror.