On the advice of Arthur Melville, Cadell travelled to Paris to study at L’Académie Julian where his fellow Colourist Samuel John Peploe had also studied. In the present work, Cadell is exploring the continuing French vogue for Japanese design principles: the simplification of formal elements, flattening of spatial depth and cropping of the subject. Cadell renders the roses and leaves in graphic geometric shapes with strong and defined edges. This seems to have been inspired in part by the revolutionary tendencies of Cezanne: ‘Cadell’s canvases began to show a greater debt to the tenets of still life laid down by Cezanne in his structured approach to the application of colour. Like Cezanne, Cadell spent much time experimenting with still-life arrangements as they allowed him to mobilise form, line and colour in their purity, without the intrusion of narrative content’. (T. Hewlett, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell in The Dictionary of Scottish Painters, p.26)
Although executed with a strong emphasis on angularity, Cadell retains a sense of the delicacy of the roses through his use of a gentle pastel pink and white tones. Cadell uses a concentration of short brushstrokes to depict the roses, a dramatic contrast to the bold blocks of greens illustrating the abundance of leaves behind, which are offset by the lighter hues of the stems. Cadell dramatically lifts the colouring of the canvas by injecting a flash of bright saturated yellow paint, applied with a sense of urgency, in the top right-hand side of the picture plane. This yellow block of paint seems to be an abstracted depiction of draperies, reflecting his colourful taste and the vibrant interior of his Edinburgh studio, as well as a nod to the brilliant colouring of the Fauves. Roses in a Glass Vase is a majestic example of Cadell’s still life painting. The thick strokes of loaded paint and the bold composition reflect Cadell’s fluid, masterful and impulsive handling.
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