Having promoted and celebrated her genius throughout her lifetime, this exhibition, which coincides with the Edinburgh International Festival, will highlight her as one of Scotland’s greatest talents and allow us to speculate what she might have achieved internationally had she lived.
Joan Eardley | Centenary will include her most celebrated subjects through drawings and pastels: the streets and children of Townhead in Glasgow and her wild, spiritual home at Catterline on the Kincardineshire coast of Scotland. Her poignant story and early death, her driven, passionate engagement with art and her self-belief and intense shyness are laid bare in every work she created.
Eardley’s first studio was on Cochrane Street in Townhead, a ‘slum’ area close to the city centre. For her the black tenements, with their rear drying greens, were inseparable from the inhabitants, which then numbered more than 30,000. The life and colour of the community was on the streets and Eardley quickly became accepted. The warmth of her studio stove was a draw in the winter months when a child was happy to sit for a few minutes in return for a boiled sweet. Children were drawn to her: ‘Joan, Joan, will you paint me?’.
In reality, Eardley was an artist anthropologist, observing and participating, neither sentimentalising or disguising the poverty. She recorded a world where the adults were indoors, working, or in the pub, and the children were on the street – lives lived as they cannot be today.
Christina Jansen, director of The Scottish Gallery, comments, One of Scotland’s greatest and best loved painters, Joan Eardley, would be a hundred this year. Her death in 1963, at the age of just forty-two, from breast cancer means that we are always left wondering at what greatness and international stardom she could have achieved had she lived longer. We want to share the work of Scotland’s best loved woman artists with you; wherever you are in the world, near or far, we want everyone to be able to enjoy and celebrate this unique talent.
To mark with the exhibition, the Artist's Estate and The Scottish Gallery are working in partnership with Dovecot Studios to create a new commission in honour of Joan Eardley. This will be created over a period of six months before being unveiled as part of the exhibition. The tapestry will interpret Eardley’s painting July Fields, 1959 (City Art Centre Collection), and will be woven haute-lisse using a high-warp loom in the world-renowned Dovecot Studios. This commission offers a new way in which to closely study and engage with Eardley’s unique composition, palette and mark-making.
The exhibition will be open to the public and via The Scottish Gallery’s online Viewing Rooms. To accompany the exhibition, The Scottish Gallery will also publish a new catalogue containing colour illustrations of all works along with originally commissioned writing and a foreword from Anne Morrison-Hudson, the artist’s niece. Joan Eardley | Centenary will also be supported by a series of online events, films, tours and talks.