The Dunara Castle at Iona

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell


With the encouragement of Peploe, Cadell abandoned his pre-war style in favour of colour, which was used to brilliant effect on his annual painting trips to Iona. Priming his canvasses with an absorbent white mix, known as gesso, he captured the intense colours from the light refracted off the sea. In order not to weaken the luminous effect, each painting came with an instruction on the back in his elegant hand: Absorbent ground. NEVER varnish. The Dunara Castle was the first steamer to make regular trips to Iona. 

  • Artist

    Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell

  • Date

    c. 1929

  • Medium

    Oil on millboard

  • Object number


  • Dimensions unframed

    38.1 × 45.7 cm

  • Dimensions framed

    58 × 66 cm

  • Place depicted

    Iona (8316744)

  • Marks

    Signed bottom left

  • Subject



Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell RSA RSW, 1883-1937

Born in Edinburgh, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell was the child of a distinguished surgeon. Brought up in the Georgian New Town, he attended Edinburgh Academy but left at sixteen to study art in Paris at the Académie Julian. The next seven years were spent either living in Paris or visiting it regularly from Edinburgh. In 1906 he capped his studies with a year at the Art Academy in Munich.

His youthful work reveals a debt to the Impressionists, taken to extremes following a revelatory trip to Venice in 1910. Back in Edinburgh, Cadell embarked on a series of swagger portraits, still-lives and interiors staged in his elegant New Town Studio which are preoccupied with the possibilities of mirrored reflections and the tonal effects of black and white in the manner of Whistler and Manet.

At the outbreak of war, Cadell’s reputation was at a peak. The youngest by almost ten years, Cadell was the only Colourist to fight in WW1 serving continuously on the Western Front and was twice wounded. Returning to Edinburgh in 1919, he brought with him Charles Oliver, who became his life-long partner and sometime model.

With Peploe’s encouragement Cadell turned to painting interiors and still lifes in planes of vivid colour and geometric forms verging on the abstract. His brilliant handling of colour was used to great effect on his annual visits to Iona, capturing the intense light refracted off the sea.

Never business-like Cadell fell prey to the collapse of the art market following the 1929 crash. He died destitute in 1937, aged 54.