Eardley’s only sitter


Two of the most anticipated art shows in Edinburgh this summer open tomorrow. One is the Scottish Gallery’s exhibition of Joan Eardley and associated artists, while the Queen’s Gallery is revealing an exceptional survey of Scottish art from the Royal Collection.

Eardley (1921-63)  made her name painting street urchins in Glasgow, but she was commissioned to do just one formal portrait in her lifetime, and that was of the children of Bill Maccauley, the Scottish Gallery’s managing director in the 1960s.

You can tell that she didn’t enjoy doing it at all, says the gallery’s Tommy Zyw.

Boy in Blue Trousers, pastel, 1960

Boy in Blue Trousers, pastel, 1960

Nonetheless this picture of Martin Macauley is a unique work by a milestone Scottish artist and it had sold before the show opened for £17,500.

“She liked the ragamuffins with dirty knees from Glasgow, poor characters, not middle-class children in their jumpers and shirts, sitting formally because their dad was saying please behave.   There is a different feel to this portrait.”

There are about 20 Eardleys in this wonderful little show – titled simply In Context – in the gallery’s basement, and they’re balanced with a few of her contemporaries as well, including James Morrison.

While Morrison has a major new exhibition in the gallery’s upstairs space, he also worked around the Aberdeenshire village of Catterline, when Eardley had her cottage,  and there are a couple of his early works.   There’s also a lovely example of an Angus Menmuir Neil painting, from another Catterline artist.

Eardley divided her time between Glasgow and Catterline, and another classic picture in the exhibition is a reminder of why she is considered such a great Scottish landscape painter.  In the intimate space it rewards a close-up look at the fantastically textured use of paint, particularly in the yellows and browns of the foreground.

Joan Eardley Scottish Gallery

Catterline Landscape, Joan Eardley, oil on board

A major loan exhibition of Eardley’s works is currently showing in Clydebank.