My Favourite Painting: Luke Edward Hall

Designer and writer Luke Edward Hall chooses an image painted by a charismatic dandy known as ‘Bunty’.

Luke Edward Hall on The Boxer by F. C. B. Cadell

‘I am all about bright colours in life and work and the paintings of the Scottish Colourists, in all their vibrant hues, have always enthralled me. Cadell’s The Boxer has stayed in my mind for years. I am in love with the telephone-box red of the chair against the teal background; the skin of the boxer, the palest white; his rose-coloured hands and knees.

‘The stories behind pictures fascinate me. Cadell did not paint many men, although it is thought that he was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He may have even had a lover, killed in the First World War.

‘Who was this boxer? I don’t know, but I am beguiled by his blushing cheeks, his frown and perhaps a hint of a smile.’

Luke Edward Hall is an interior designer, artist and columnist for the Financial Times.

Charlotte Mullins comments on The Boxer

F. C. B. Cadell, a charismatic dandy known as ‘Bunty’ to his friends, painted this near-naked boxer two years after he was demobbed at the end of the First World War. Born in Scotland, Cadell had originally moved to Paris to study art as a new century dawned. There, he discovered the art of the Impressionists and witnessed the emergence of Matisse and the Fauves, the ‘wild beasts’ who whipped colour into a frenzy.

After a decade, Cadell was back in Edinburgh, applying hot Fauve colours to Scottish landscapes and interiors. He was the youngest of four artists who became known as the Scottish Colourists. They had all spent time in France and were influenced by the latest French painting trends.

The Boxer is one of a series of male nudes that the versatile Cadell completed after the war. Often working from models who were athletes or fellow servicemen these men appear lost in their own thoughts. The young boxer’s skin is chalk white, a series of taut curves defining his muscled body. Only his head and hands have seen the sun and his red cheeks and auburn hair suggest he burns easily. Cadell’s love of colour sees red slice through this oil painting, from the portrait of the black man on the teal wall to the chair on which the boxer sits.

Cadell makes the shades zing and uses the flat blocks of colour to contrast with the assured brushstrokes that conjure the white man’s taut physique.