Born in Scotland in 1883, Cadell was a left handed painter who moved to Paris to study at the Academie Julian on the advice of Arthur Melville. He is one of only four Scottish colorists. While in Paris, he met Samuel Peploe, who he frequently traveled with and greatly influenced his work. Prior to World War I, his work was also heavily influenced by the work of the Impressionists artists, particularly Matisse’s early work. However, his paintings became substantially bolder and brighter after the war was over and he visited Venice. After visiting Iona in 1912, it became a favorite subject for him because of the color of the sky and beaches.
Never a fan of the progressive ideas that were showing up in art overseas, he preferred bold, primary colors painted in an impressionistic and loose manner, illustrated in The Vase of Water (1922). Most of his paintings involved landscapes, still life and figures, as well as the interior of the fashionable townhomes in his native Edinburgh, such as in Interior with Opera Cloak (1914). As he grew older, he preferred to use pure colors and his works emitted an air of solidarity. Iona (1928) is a good example of this style. He died in 1938 penniless due to the economy.