Press Review Joan Eardley 3rd – 27th April 2013 Financial Times Joan Eardley, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh – review Jackie Wullschlager March 31, 2013 These pictures demonstrate Eardley as the greatest child portraitist since Soutine Joan Eardley was born within a decade of Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach, and like them worked against mid-20th-century abstraction to produce turbulently expressive paintings concentrated on a few familiar subjects. Eardley died in 1963, aged 42. Had she lived a long, full life, would she now be as celebrated as these masters of postwar figuration? This show, launching in Edinburgh before moving to London in May, offers a chance to reassess her achievement. Eardley’s originality lies in two bodies of work: portraits of Glasgow tenement children, especially the dozen Samson siblings, and winter seascapes of Catterline, the remote Scottish fishing village where she lived alone in a clifftop cottage from the mid-1950s. These subjects are similarly challenging in that they never keep still – swirling mists, grey skies, waves crashing against rocks in “Todhead Point” and “Bay, Catterline”; children skipping or scribbling by a tenement window in a chill blue/white light in “Glasgow Children Drawing with Chalk” and “Children and Chalk Wall”. The vitality and authenticity of these motifs attracted Eardley, who answered their rawness and lack of obvious beauty with a brutal painterly integrity, objective, full of sympathy but never sentiment. With their rough faces red with cold, wide blotchy mouths and direct stares, Eardley’s street children especially, often painted in pastel on fine glass paper, lending sparkle and spontaneity, look powerful in their obdurate sense of self, and vulnerable. “Pink Jumper” is a masterpiece of abbreviation, distortion, pentimenti, non-natural colour, conveying the immediate presence of a young girl. All of them demonstrate Eardley as the greatest child portraitist since Soutine.
The Times Joan Eardley biography ‘obscures appreciation of her talent’ Nick Drainey March 21, 2013 A book revealing the love life of one of Scotland’s most respected women artists is guilty of obscuring her genius, it was claimed last night. Richard Demarco, the artist and promoter, said revelations that Joan Eardley sent intimate letters to married photographer Audrey Walker was typical of the “inward looking” modern obsession with sexuality that “brings disaster into lives”. The letters are contained in a new biography of the artist who died 50 years ago, written by Christopher Andreae. He said they end speculation about the artist’s sexuality. Eardley is best known for her paintings of the poor in Glasgow but she went on to live in Catterline, Aberdeenshire, where her depictions of rough seas and landscapes garnered more acclaim. She met Walker, the wife of a sheriff, when she was a student at Glasgow School of Art in the 1950s and they remained close until she died of breast cancer in 1963. Walker is believed to have visited Catterline, where she photographed Eardley. In one letter, Eardley said: “I just feel I love you so much — and there just ain’t words — to say it — not words that mean what I feel inside of me — and there’s nothing else that I really want to say — nothing at all. . .” Another says: “Can you wait until the middle of next week for me to come back? Can I? That’s also to be thought about.” There are no letters from Walker, although in a tribute published after her death in 1996, she said: “If anyone ever has a mind to write, many years from now, a book dealing with Joan the person, as well as Eardley the Painter, I feel somehow they should have, sort of germinating in some remote corner of their mind, the conception of the whole Joan.” However, Demarco, who filmed a documentary of Eardley at Catterline, said the book could diminish appreciation of the artist’s talent with its reference to the letters. He said: “It could be a way of obscuring the essential nature of the truth of her achievements. Therefore I am not happy. It is typical of this time; we are absolutely obsessed by the nature of sexuality. It is inward looking ... it brings disaster into lives. “She took inspiration from slum dwellers — I would rather that was the headline. There is a level of degradation about it.” Demarco said Eardley was a very private person who relied on the friendship of women. But he added: “My own view is that her personal life has nothing to do with her genius, and I use the word advisedly, as a painter and her love of humanity on the lowest level. “She wasn’t painting the usual comforting images of Scotland, she was painting storm ravaged Scotland, also the intolerable horror of places like the Gorbals. She turned the hopelessness and the squalor of life in the Gorbals into art. Her real love for humanity was expressed beautifully in her work. “We are examining the nature of her capacity to love and if I was writing a book about her, I would concentrate on that.” Guy Peploe, the managing director of The Scottish Gallery, which sponsored the book and is hosting an exhibition of Eardley’s work next month, agreed that her work could stand alone from her personal life but said there was still an interest in it. He said: “Certainly the biography and personal life of most well known artists is in the public arena and is a matter of public interest. So there is an interesting balance. “We know all about Picasso and Michelangelo and so on. So both things are true. The work has to be able to stand alone; it can’t be supported by the facts of the life. “But at the same time I think it is a matter of public interest in the sense that to understand more about the artist does perhaps enrich the understanding of the work.”
The Times Artist’s reputation April 8 2013 It is astounding today to hear it suggested that knowledge of artists’ homosexuality could affect our appreciation of their work Sir, Your item about Joan Eardley (“Eardley biography ‘obscures appreciation of her talent’”, Mar 21) begins: “A book revealing the love life of one of Scotland’s most respected women artists . . .” It is the first of many misrepresentations. So she sent “intimate” letters to another woman who was “married”. What depravity! The letters are mostly about her work but are full of love and longing for the company of her friend. They do not refer to any physical relations. There is no evidence that Sheriff Walker objected to his wife’s deep friendship with Joan Eardley. The book is said to “end speculation” about her sexual orientation. Nonsense. It has been acknowledged for years. Richard Demarco is reported as saying the new book’s reference to the matter could diminish appreciation of the artist’s talent. It is astounding today to hear it suggested that knowledge of artists’ homosexuality could harm their reputation. Demarco regrets that it might be so, but he should realise it can only be so if influential people like himself talk as if it already has. He says finally, “we are examining the nature of her capacity to love”. Well, that is precisely what the letters quoted show. I am one of the few surviving people who visited Joan Eardley at Catterline and saw the deep vulnerability yet steely determination of this loveable woman. I have made some contribution to establishing her reputation. Christopher Andreae, with this book, will make a major one. We have no need for the tittletattle your report has indulged in. Douglas Hall Morebattle, Scottish Borders
The Scotsman Visual Art Review : Joan of art : A new exhibition shows how Scottish artist Joan Eardley's fine art wasn't fine at all, but rather rough and ready, untouched by bourgeois sensibilities Duncan Macmillan April 11, 2013 JOAN EARDLEY , SCOTTISH GALLERY, EDINBURGH **** Joan Eardley was born in Sussex in 1921 and moved to London as a child. Her father took his own life in 1929, but the family had some private means. Later the artist herself always had a small income which enabled her to avoid having to teach for a living. Her mother was Scottish and in 1940 took her family back to Scotland to escape the Blitz. Eardley had begun to study art in London and so in 1940 enrolled in Glasgow School of Art. For six months in 1946, she also studied at Hospitalfield in Arbroath with James Cowie, who she didn't like but from whom she learnt a great deal. Cowie's drawings of children, for instance, anticipate her own in their emphatic rejection of any ideal vision of childhood and corresponding respect for a child's individuality. There are beautiful examples of her informal child portraits in the current exhibition at The Scottish Gallery which also marks the publication of a new book on the artist by Christopher Andreae. Eardley's training was extended, her subsequent career all too brief. She died in 1963 aged just 42, but her output was formidable and her work constantly original. Glasgow in the war years was a lively place artistically. There were refugees like Jankel Adler and Josef Herman with experience of continental modernism. Herman, a communist, also promoted a radical, leftwing aesthetic which certainly touched the young Eardley. JD Fergusson, surrounded by a circle of young artists, by force of circumstance mostly women, also kept the flag flying for a truly modern Scottish art. From those early days in Glasgow, Eardley too flew that flag, for whatever her origins, she became very much part of Scottish art. She absorbed ideas from contemporaries like Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde and in turn influenced the younger generation, both in her lifetime and since. The exhibition at The Scottish Gallery covers most of Eardley's career. It does so principally through drawings, but also includes a number of significant paintings and larger works. It is least representative of her early years, but this is probably inevitable. She was always careless and as her work was less valued by others when she was young, no doubt less of it survives. Even in Andreae's book there are only a few illustrations of works from before 1950. It reflects a limitation of the book that such as there are, however, are difficult to identify. It is well illustrated and the quality of the reproductions is good, but the illustrations are organised according to their mention in the text and this is pretty random for it is not a consistent narrative. Instead it is divided into chapters under whimsical headings like "Days in the Country", "An Epistolary Interlude", or "About Angus" (Angus was Angus Neil, a friend and to an extent a dependent of the artist), or more simply "Genre", or "Portrait Painting". This means the illustrations don't make a separate pictorial narrative as one might expect them to do. The first really striking works that Eardley produced were the result of a journey she made in 1948-9 on a travelling scholarship to Italy. Before that, however, she had painted in the streets of Glasgow and shipyards of the Clyde pictures that reflect the left-wing aesthetic of Josef Herman and also of Tom MacDonald and Bet Low with whose art Eardley's has much in common at this time.
Andreae describes how when she was in Italy, Eardley received left-wing reviews in the post from Glasgow. He doesn't pursue the question this raises beyond later saying that Eardley denied there was any political intention in her paintings of Glasgow children. No doubt that was true, but it begs the question of how politics had shaped her interest in such subject matter in the first place. The spirit of her early Glasgow work continued in strongly drawn Italian scenes and people. The first work in the exhibition that really shows her strength, however, is a drawing of a fishing boat, identified as the Acorn, in Stonehaven Harbour, probably done in 1952 when she first visited the North-east coast that was to become her home. The drawing is splattered with ink. Whether this was by accident or design, the effect is to convey vivid, reckless urgency. Another early drawing of the red-painted end of a Glasgow tenement is done on four sheets of paper laid down roughly, one on the other, as the drawing grew. This kind of casual, almost haphazard treatment was part of the politically coloured aesthetic that she had learnt in Glasgow: fine art should not be fine at all. It should rather be rough and ready, untouched by bourgeois refinement. It was an attitude that anticipated the later Italian Arte Povera movement. For Eardley personal neglect was perhaps part of it, too, reflecting the feeling that art to be valid should be a struggle against adversity and in the end, tragically, it was neglect of an illness that killed Eardley so prematurely. In her art this need for struggle was only creative, however, and it kept its vivid spontaneity throughout her short life. At Catterline, looking inland she painted romantic landscapes of fields and cornstacks, but when she turned towards the sea the accounts she gave in her letters are all about the physical struggle with wind and weather and that physicality is miraculously carried over into her seascapes. There is a superb example in the exhibition. In the crest of a breaking wave, great chunks of paint are clearly scraped straight off her palette and banged onto the canvas with little regard for what actual colours it incorporated. She seems to have found this same sense of wild freedom in the graffiti that graced Glasgow's walls and which she incorporated into late paintings in her Children and Chalked Walls series of which there is also a superb example here.
Andreae's book is actually the third biography of Eardley to which must also be added Fiona Pearson's admirable catalogue of the retrospective in 2007. Its main strength is in its evocation of Eardley's personality and her relationships with those close to her. It includes, for instance, the text of love letters that she wrote to Audrey Walker. That she had relationships with women is not new, but these letters do offer a new insight even if it is a little uncomfortable reading them. The book's main weakness is that in focusing so closely on Eardley herself, it tends to confuse the artist with her art. The author too often takes her opinions of her work at face value. Artists are naturally important witnesses to their own work, but they are also notoriously unreliable. The only really reliable witness is the work itself which Andreae does not analyse closely enough. He is also clearly uncomfortable with the idea that Eardley was a Scottish artist and seems to think it diminishes her. In the catalogue to the Scottish Gallery exhibition, for instance, he writes that with her there is no need "for such qualifiers (even if they are not intentionally demeaning) as 'Scottish', 'twentieth century' and 'woman artist.'" It is really rather startling that in his view "Scottish" or "woman artist" ever could be demeaning epithets. It follows, however, that his last chapter is headed "Real or Abstract, Scottish or Universal?" The first question is easily settled. Eardley was an artist who learnt much from contemporary abstract art, mostly modern French painting, but latterly also from American. She resolutely held out against the fashion for abstraction, however, to insist, in a way that was rather typically Scottish, that her art was about her relationship to the visible and tangible world around her. The second question however, "was she Scottish or universal?", suggests that for Andreae these are mutually exclusive. They are not. She was both Scottish and universal and so in very good company too. Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae is published by Lund Humphries in April. Joan Eardley is at The Scottish Gallery until 27 April BEST IN SHOW Throughout her life, Joan Eardley painted in the streets of Glasgow, where she treated the children easily and naturally. In her early work they are strongly individualised, but in the last years of her life they become more generic as though part of their environment. It was an environment that they had created, too, by apparently covering every available surface with graffiti. So she painted children together with their graffiti in a series of pictures generally titled Children and Chalked Wall. In the exhibition a beautiful example is in mixed media, combining collage with gouache in brilliant blue, black and red and the white of chalk drawings on the wall, which morph into the children themselves as though coming to life.
STV Edinburgh Joan Eardley's unseen work to go on display for 50 year anniversary Claire White 2 April 2013 She is one of the Scottish art scene's most celebrated artists and now works from Joan Eardley that have never been seen by the public before are to go on show in Edinburgh. This year marks 50 years since her death and to mark the anniversary and to coincide with the release of a new biography, The Scottish Gallery is exhibiting the exclusive works. The exhibition and book preview will open at the Dundas Street venue on Wednesday, April 4 until Saturday, April 27. Managing Director of The Scottish Gallery, Guy Peploe, said: “There has been an incredible amount of interest in this exhibition, over and above our expectations. “We are expecting a great deal of people visiting as once these paintings have been sold to private collectors they may not be seen in public again.” As well as the exhibition of work currently sitting in private collections, another 30 pieces will be put up for sale over the course of the event - the first major exhibition of Eardley's work since 2007. Eardley made her name depicting slum children from post-war Glasgow, mainly in the Townhead area and north of the city where her studio was based, and drawings of scenes from the shipyards of Port Glasgow. Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer but refused to receive any treatment working on her love of art until the day she died in 1963. She was just 42. A book release by Christopher Andreae titled Joan Eardley will go on display and will be available for purchase. It includes letters written by her and her close friends giving an insight into her private life. These letters contain secrets that have been locked away for 50 years including mentions of her previously undiscovered love life. Author of the book, Christopher Andreae, said: “Eardley has been treated to considerable admiration both before and after her death. “Her work is expressive and communicative and its authenticity often touches people in unexpected ways that might well be spoilt by too much attempted explanation.” The exhibition will also see photographs taken by Eardley and a 22 minute film titled Three Scottish Painters featuring the artist on display. After its appearance in Edinburgh, the exhibition will go on show at the Portland Gallery in London.
Herald, Scotland Just Janice: does it matter if Joan Eardley was a lesbian? Janice Forsyth 22 March, 2013 That phrase has been running through my mind all week, after Scottish artist, the late Joan Eardley, hit the headlines, because it’s been revealed that she wrote love letters to a woman. A selection of the letters has been published in a new book. No-one will be surprised that she was a lesbian, although apparently this fact had been previously unconfirmed. How tragic that this brilliant woman died of cancer in 1963 when she was just 42. In my opinion, she was one of the most gifted painters of the 20th century. Her work, including her famous portraits of Glasgow street kids and her magnificent, wild seascapes painted outdoors, often in grim conditions at Catterline on the Aberdeenshire coast, never fails to move me. She continued to paint even when she was in bed, in the last stages of breast cancer. The memory of her work is making me emotional as I write. And that’s the point - Joan Eardley’s paintings convey her passion, her drive, her dedication to her work; her love of landscape, the elements, and the power of paint on canvas to make a connection between the artist and the viewer. What is to be gained from reading her private letters to her sweetheart? The argument is that an additional insight into her life, daily routine, and, yes, her sexuality, will add to our understanding of the paintings. In fact, I think it is in danger of intruding on it. Add to that the fact that it’s just plain wrong to read someone’s most intimate correspondence. We’ve been here countless times before - volumes of Ernest Hemingway’s letters are rolling out, despite the fact that he left instructions that he didn’t want them published. Did anyone need to know about Philip Larkin’s bottom fetish, as revealed in his letters to his mistress, or the fits of weeping and sadness which French philosopher, Roland Barthes wrote about in his personal diary? Unless the writer has stated that such material should be made public posthumously, it should remain private. However, if the Eardley coverage brings her work to a wider audience, that is cheering. If you’re a fan or new to her paintings, you should visit The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh at the beginning of April for an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of her untimely death - the first since the stunning retrospective at the National Galleries in 2007. Female artist's love letters to the wife of Scots sheriff And while you’re circling that on your calendar, make a note of another, very different exhibition, highlighting a fabulous Scotswoman. The House Of Annie Lennox opens at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh this weekend and runs until the end of June, featuring costumes, videos, photographs and many more items from the singer’s extensive archive. The whole shebang provides a tour through her career from her early days with The Tourists up to the present day. I’m meeting her at the Gallery on Monday for a wheech round the exhibits. A day for the lippy, I think!
The Courier M1earns artist Joan Eardley’s secret love revealed Katie Smyth 21 March 2013 The secret love of one of the most influential female British painters of the 20th century has come to light in a series of daily love letters to the wife of a Glasgow sheriff. Joan Eardley – who found a second home in the fishing village of Catterline, near Stonehaven, painting the local seascape – wrote daily letters to Lady Audrey Walker, the wife of Allan Grierson Walker, the Sheriff Principal of Lanarkshire. Author Christopher Andreae has published a selection of the revealing letters in his new book Joan Eardley, 50 years after her death. “It’s one of those silly things that everybody’s known about or suspected for years so why not get it out in the open?” Mr Andreae said. “Towards the end of her life in 1963 there was an exhibition in London and Audrey said she wasn’t able to make it. “Joan said ‘Not to bother, you’re in all the paintings anyway,’ and I thought that was lovely.” That sentiment is echoed throughout the letters, which have been published for the first time since a family embargo was lifted in 2009. No letters to the artist from Audrey exist but she wrote a tribute to Joan, which is published in the new book comparing her to the North Sea. Mr Andreae said: “Joan had a temperament like the sea. She could be very calm and quiet but then she could flare up. Audrey said she was like the summer sea and the winter sea.” The letters quoted in Mr Andreae’s book cover the period from 1955, when Joan was writing from Catterline. She first went to the little fishing village in 1950 after she contracted the mumps during an exhibition of her work in Aberdeen. “She loved it immediately but she didn’t go there for any great period until 1955.” Mr Andreae said. “She thought she would only stay a month or two but she loved it. “I think she needed to escape from the city. I think she feels she had painted slum children (in Glasgow) for some time and she had always liked landscapes. Having found Catterline then, it was an obvious place to be.” One letter to Audrey from 1960 reads: “Wee dear person – this must be an awful wee letter, cos I’m awful tired after a hard day’s work. “There are so many things to paint. It’s hard to keep up. “I almost feel I may end up with nothing due to trying to do too much! Still, it doesn’t really matter. “It’s just good to feel that there is so much that could be worked on. No shortage!” Joan died in 1963 of breast cancer when she was only 42. The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh opens an exhibition of her work next month to mark the 50 years since her death.
Herald, Scotland Female artist's love letters to the wife of Scots sheriff Phil Miller 20 March 2013 The secret love life of one of the leading female British painters of the 20th century has been revealed in a series of love letters to the wife of a Glasgow sheriff. Joan Eardley – whose art is famed for its depiction of children playing in rundown Glasgow tenements as well as the fishing village of Catterline on the north east coast – wrote daily letters to Lady Audrey Walker, with whom she was in a close relationship from 1952 to her death in 1963. In a new book, published 50 years after the artist's death, Glasgow-based author Christopher Andreae publishes a selection of letters from Eardley to Lady Walker for the first time since a family embargo was lifted in 2009. The letters not only reveal the affectionate and loving side of the artist, and her daily artistic routine, but also makes plain her sexuality. In one, from 1955, the artist wrote: "I've had a good day and perfection would be to have to you here tonight. But that's a thing I daren't let myself think about. The important thing is that you are all right." In another, from the same year, she penned: "I just feel I love you so much and there just ain't words to say it - not words that mean what I feel inside." Mr Andreae said: "Joan met Audrey in 1952 in Glasgow and when she settled in Catterline, she wrote her a daily letter because, it is clear, she was in love with her. "They are love letters, but they also address what life was like for Joan in Catterline and what she did there. "Audrey's son told me she used to visit Joan 'frequently'. Now the letters are in the National Library of Scotland and in the public domain." The letters also explain the challenges and joys of painting the wild seas of Catterline, the small fishing village near Stonehaven where she lived and worked after studying at the Glasgow School of Art. Born in Sussex in 1921, Eardley moved to Glasgow in 1940 and, after her studies, had a studio in the Townhead area, where she saw and painted many deprived children. Her career was cut short in 1963, when she died of cancer at the age of 42. The author said: "The point of the letters is the openness about her sexuality. From that point of view, it is good these things should be out in the open." No letters to the artist from Lady Walker – wife of Allan Grierson Walker, Sheriff Principal of Lanarkshire – survive. It is believed they were accidentally disposed of after Eardley's death. However, in a tribute to the artist written by Lady Walker and published for the first time in the new book, she compares the artist to the North Sea in all its different moods. Lady Walker wrote that the summer sea was the Joan "everyone knew" but the winter sea in "its indomitable grandeur and the wild, turbulent and terrifying splendour" was "Joan too". Mr Andreae said: "That perhaps explains why Joan Eardley was inspired by the sea. It says in the letters how she would be drawn to the sea and couldn't pull herself away and became so caught up in it." The letters, Mr Andreae added, not only cast light on the artist's hitherto unconfirmed private life but also her life and art. The revelations come as a major new exhibition of the artist's work opens at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, which will run from April 3 to 27. Joan Eardley, by Christopher Andreae, is published by Lund Humphries.
Herald, Scotland When an artist's sexuality is an issue 23 March 2013 George Devlin and Sandra Malcolm protest (Letters, March 22) about recent revelations of Joan Eardley's sexuality. Mr Devlin asks: "Why is it so important nowadays that we explore someone's sexuality and intimate love letters rather than their achievements?" In many circumstances, there is a lot to be said for this approach. Not in all circumstances, though. Last year, in an exhibition devoted to the influence of Picasso on British art, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art included a selection of works by the "two Roberts", Colquhoun and MacBryde. They were a gay couple, recognised from their student days as inseparable, and it is implausible to suppose a rounded picture of their outlook and art can be given without according this fact a central place. But in the information posted at the exhibition, all we were told about them was that they formed "a close friendship", even though the exhibition was quite forthcoming about the impact of the heterosexual relationships of other artists included. Here, a proper reticence toppled over into insulting evasiveness, as though this fact about them were too awful to be revealed to the world. Scotland on Sunday Art : Joan of art Moira Jeffrey March 31, 2013 'I HAVE had the great and good fortune to know the tender and gentle Joan, and the wonderful companion," wrote musician and photographer Audrey Walker about Joan Eardley, one of Britain's most important post-war painters. "And also to have lived in harmony with the tough, cussing, swearing, bulldozing indomitable creator of what may be masterpieces." Her words, penned in a tribute marking the death of the artist at the age of 42 in 1963, have been embargoed for almost five decades. But a new book about Eardley by Christopher Andreae, to be published next month, and a forthcoming exhibition at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh have finally brought this tender love affair into the light. Walker's photographs of Eardley have long been known of and are held in the archive of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. They show Eardley in her chaotic studio in Glasgow's Townhead in the 1950s, drawing and painting the local children who gathered there. The nearby streets were boarded up, the walls graffiti-scrawled. But Eardley's children were painted with dignity and quiet intensity, every one an individual. Then there's the pastoral Eardley painting contentedly in fields. Or the fierce, indomitable Eardley battling wind and weather in the Aberdeenshire village of Catterline, where she made her finest paintings: the landscapes and wild seascapes that revealed her absolute compulsion to paint. Should the love affair between the painter and Walker, ten years her senior, a mother and the wife of a Glasgow sheriff, make a difference to our feelings about any of this? The life is not the work.
At least I thought so until reading Andreae's book. Eardley's painting life was terribly hard, working through extreme weather and latterly through terrible ill health. Walker's support nurtured her both emotionally and practically. "She so longed for a right wee home," wrote Walker, "and was so happy when there was a wee person there, I really think she did, as she said she did, do some of her best work." For Adele Patrick, an expert in women's history and a founder of Glasgow Women's Library, the life and the work cannot be separated. "Art and life cannot be hermetically sealed. We hear so much about male artists and their muses, it's important to recognise these kind of loving and nurturing relationships between women." Both women were sustained by creativity. "Music and painting are such important things," Eardley wrote to Walker. "And the fact that we both try to make a little something of them seems a sort of added bond." The pair met in 1952. From 1954 Eardley wrote to Walker almost daily and the letters, which reveal the artist's life and routines, are tender and intimate. Both Walker and Eardley believed that the artist worked better when they were able to spend time together in Catterline. When Walker regretted not being able to attend Eardley's solo London show at Roland, Browse and Delbanco, the artist responded: "Why worry, you're there anyway in my paintings." Eardley's life was cut tragically short by cancer at the age of just 42. She was born in Sussex, studied briefly in London, but largely at Glasgow School of Art and later at Patrick Allan Fraser's Hospitalfield House in Arbroath. Her peripatetic lifestyle had begun with the failure of the family dairy farm when she was an infant. Eardley's father had never recovered from being gassed in the First World War. He had a nervous breakdown and took his own life. The family had Scottish roots and moved to Bearsden, and at Glasgow School of Art, Eardley's star rose. In Townhead and Catterline she found her voice, one now recognised as uniquely expressive and impressively dedicated. Walker's previously unpublished tribute is an extraordinary testament of her love for the painter: "Her courage and triumph over the appalling conditions in which she painted these wonderful seas, when so often she was suffering physical pain, is something to make an ordinary creature very humble.â€? Soft-spoken and gentle in public, Eardley had a ferocious and driven aspect which Walker admired. This side, she felt should be recorded and one day published, to reveal "Joan, the person as well as Joan the painter." Walker wrote for posterity and she wrote poetically: "I always identify Joan with the sea... there is the gentle sunlit sea one delights in, in the summer... this was the Joan that I think everyone knew. But there is the magnificent winter sea in all its grandeur and wild turbulence. This was Joan too." For Patrick, the fact that Eardley's lover was a married woman is not surprising. Such circumstances were, "absolutely routine since the 19th century". The library's own important archive of lesbian history, she says, is testament to loving and enduring relationships between women where one was in a marriage. It's complex for surviving families, she acknowledges, "but these are significant stories". The library has long been interested in Eardley as a pioneering artist and complex historical figure. Patrick, who, like Eardley, studied at Glasgow School of Art, cites Eardley's extraordinary 1955 portrait of Angus Neil, her friend and fellow painter whose adult life was blighted by mental health problems. Eardley's portrait of him, vulnerable and naked, became a newspaper scandal as it was considered an unsuitable work for a "girl painter". It was a warning shot about what the media and the art world would
tolerate. Says Patrick: "It's important to know, especially with women, about the things that have inhibited the work and the things that have fostered it." For Adele Patrick the most important thing in recording women's lives is "seeing the life through the person's own interpretation, their own testimony and that of those who are close to them". It is this testimony that Audrey Walker's papers bring to light for the first time. And what loving testimony it is. "To me she was quite simply like the winter sea," wrote Walker. "To which and for which I would give my life." Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae is published by Lund Humphries in April. Joan Eardley is at the Scottish Gallery from Wednesday to 27 April
BBC Radio 4 – Woman’s Hour Joan Eardley Fri 12 Apr 2013 Joan Eardley is one of the most celebrated painters who lived and worked in Scotland in the last century. Famous for her sea and landscapes and for her depictions of slum children in Glasgow, her paintings and drawings reflect urban and rural Scotland in a unique way. To mark the 50th anniversary of her death, there are exhibitions of her work at The Scottish Gallery and the Portland Galleries in Edinburgh and London and the first comprehensive monograph of her work by Christopher Andreae is being published. Jenni Murray talks to Christopher Andreae and Joan Eardley’s niece, Anne Morrison. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rrc0x Listen on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01rrc0x/Womans_Hour_Maureen_Lipman_Scottish_artist_Joan_Eardle y_lying_about_your_age/
The Scotsman Joan Eardley letters show relationship with woman Brian Ferguson 20 March 2013 A NEW biography of one of Scotland’s best-known female artists has lifted the lid on her long-time relationship with another woman – 50 years after her death. Intimate letters written by Glasgow artist Joan Eardley to married photographer Audrey Walker have emerged after the lifting of an embargo. The pair met in the city, where Ms Eardley studied at Glasgow School of Art, in 1952 and remained close up until the artist’s death at the age of just 42 from breast cancer in 1963. Christopher Andreae, the author of the book, titled Joan Eardley, said the “love letters” effectively end long-held speculation about Ms Eardley’s sexuality. The new book is billed as the most comprehensive assessment to date of an artist widely regarded as one of the most influential painters of her generation. Born in 1921, she is perhaps best remembered for her vivid depictions of youngsters in the deprived Glasgow suburb of Townhead, where she had a studio, and of the nearby shipyards at Port Glasgow. The book is being released to coincide with two forthcoming exhibitions of the artist’s work in London and Edinburgh. Mrs Walker, who was married to a Glasgow sheriff, kept many of the letters that she was sent by the artist while the latter was living in the fishing village of Catterline, in Aberdeenshire. Although no letters from Mrs Walker to Ms Eardley survived, the book does feature a moving tribute she paid to the artist after her death, which she insisted should not be published until after she had passed away herself. Mrs Walker died in her native Dumfries in 1996.
The pair would meet up regularly in Catterline, where Ms Eardley would pose for photographs for her companion, many of which are featured in the new book. In one of the letters to the photographer, Ms Eardley states: “I just feel I love you so much – and there just ain’t words – to say it – not words that mean what I feel inside of me – and there’s nothing else that I really want to say – nothing at all...” In another letter, she says: “Can you wait until the middle of next week for me to come back? Can I? That’s also to be thought about.” In her own tribute, Mrs Walker writes: “If anyone ever has a mind to write, many years from now, a book dealing with Joan the person, as well as Eardley the Painter, I feel somehow they should have, sort of germinating in some remote corner of their mind, the conception of the whole Joan.” Mr Andreae, who said he had spent several years compiling the book, told The Scotsman: “I would say the letters from Joan to Audrey are affectionate, sweet, gentle and very intimate. They indicate a very close friendship indeed and I think it’s very obvious that she was in love with this woman. It is also clear from the tribute from Audrey that she very much worshipped Joan. “I think their relationship would have been known to Joan’s close friends, but it’s never been written about at all. The letters were embargoed by Audrey until long after her death.” Guy Peploe, director of the Scottish Gallery, hosting an exhibition of Ms Eardley’s work from 3-27 April, said: “She’s up there in terms of the female artists Scotland produced.”
Herald, Scotland Jan Patience 30 March 2013 “I always identify Joan with the sea, and it is a valid identification. There is the gentle sunlit sea one delights in, in the summer. And even in bad weather it is still a summer sea. This was the Joan that I think everyone knew. This is the sea most people know. But there is the magnificent winter sea, in all its indomitable grandeur and the wild, turbulent and terrifying splendour. This was Joan too.” These words were written about the painter Joan Eardley by her friend Audrey Walker, not long after she died in 1963, at the age of just 42. As recently revealed in The Herald, Walker – a sheriff's wife and also a talented musician who gave up her career to raise her family – was also Eardley’s lover. This fact is not dealt with salaciously in a new book about Eardley, written by Christopher Andreae. It is in there as part of a bigger picture painted of a remarkable Scottish artist, along with Walker’s tribute which has never been published before. Most moving of all are letters written to Walker by Eardley on a daily basis when she was living and working in the north east coastal village of Catterline. The letters are gentle and loving. (‘Dear dear you,’ she writes to Walker at one point, ‘I love you so much. It is often almost too painful to be away from you for so long.’ For my part, as a fan – and there are legions of us guarding her memory fiercely – reading them made me love Eardley more as an artist and as a human being. Today, 50 years after her death, the passion which lies within Eardley’s paintings continues to fascinate viewers. Born in Sussex to a Scots mother and an English father, who was gassed in the first world war and who committed suicide when Joan was eight and her sister, Pat, was six, the all-female Eardley family moved to Bearsden following the outbreak of war in 1939. She went on to be a star pupil at Glasgow School of Art. By the time of her death in 1963, her work was heading towards abstract expressionism and her work was being recognised outside Scotland. In 2007, a major exhibition of her work at the National Gallery of Scotland (NGoS) wowed a new generation who came to her work for the first time. In the large gallery space on The Mound, Eardley’s Catterline seascapes possessed a power which was almost bewitching. Viewers familiar with Joan Eardley’s portraits of Glasgow street kids from the 1950s and early 1960s suddenly saw this artist through fresh eyes. This Wednesday (April 3), a new exhibition of Eardley’s work, the first major display of her paintings since the retrospective, opens in The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. This exhibition coincides with the publication of Andreae’s new illustrated monograph on Eardley and already, almost half the work has been sold. This exhibition spans the full gamut of Eardley’s output, and features rare early works from her travels to France and Italy on travelling scholarships, studies of children in inner city Glasgow and on-the-spot paintings made in Catterline. The late works in this exhibition hint at the artist she may have been had she lived. The last year of her life was, in her own words, propelling her art towards the place which ‘hangs between reality and abstraction’. Some of the work has not been seen in public since the 1964 memorial exhibition held by The Scottish Gallery, which had a close association with Eardley during her lifetime.
According to Christina Jansen, director of The Scottish Gallery, there are works on show which have never been seen in public before. “These are really paintings which need to be seen on the walls,” she says. “Looking at Joan Eardley’s work online doesn’t compare to seeing it in front of you. She was not painting for anyone else; she was painting for herself. She could also do it on any scale – working with what she had in front of her. “One of the wonderful things about the new book about Joan is hearing her voice. The way she writes is so unpretentious. There’s a bit in the book in which she talks about standing rooted to the spot, painting. Not moving; returning to it day after day, so that she made her own mark on the land, leaving her painting paraphernalia all around her. The way she describes it is almost cinematic. It’s almost as though she is going back to pre-history – just like the landscape around Catterline.” This new book will delight her fans. The fact she has been ‘outed’ half a century after her death is incidental. What is important about this aspect of the book, is the way in which it paints a more rounded picture of her as a human being and as an artist who painted intense emotion into her artworks. This exhibition, alongside a second exhibition of Eardley’s work at The Portland Gallery in London which opens on May 1, presents buyers and admirers alike with the opportunity to see Eardley’s work up close. One of the additional highlights is a 22 minute colour film featuring Eardley called Three Scottish Painters made in 1964, which will be showing in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. The gallery website also has a wealth of material which will delight fans.
The Times Douglas Hall 20 April 2013 Seize a chance to view a rare exhibition of Joan Eardley’s paintings This exhibition of a master painter is timed to coincide with the publication of a substantial monograph by Christopher Andreae (published by Lund Humphries), who has also been involved with the production of the handsome and beautifully illustrated catalogue. Unfortunately, there is something of a mismatch between the exhibition and both these publications. Andreae’s monograph is free to range over the whole work of Eardley, and he does so with admirable insight. The exhibition is a selling show and must rely on what is on the market, so it is inevitably somewhat uneven. Although Eardley prices are now very high, the market is far from flooded with prime examples of her major works. Readers in London and the South should ignore all that. Opportunities to see Eardley in London are rare and should be seized, for she is unique. Visitors will see several paintings of museum standard, the best perhaps a canvas of hedgerow flowers that is fit to melt the heart. But the greater number of drawings and mixed media works on paper can give a good account of this exceptional artist. Exceptional? I believe this is the correct word, for she fits in no comfortable slot or category. Those whose first introduction to her are her drawings and pastels of slum children in the (now demolished) back streets of Glasgow, may take her as something of a social realist. They may be dumbfounded at her paintings of the force of nature on the shores and seas of eastern Scotland, where she also worked. Be it the pitiless storm of Lear, or the “force that through the green fuse drives the flower” of Dylan Thomas, Eardley can live with these metaphors. There are many pastels of appealing Glasgow children, but tremors of the primeval force can be felt in a few large paintings. We cannot be in Andreae’s book for long before feeling almost humbled by the courage, physical and mental strength and iron determination of this remarkable woman working in the face of nature’s violence. Two drawings in the exhibition (nos 3 and 6) allow us to see the mortal combat of an artist with the subject and the medium. Both subject and medium you must look at, for Eardley was supremely successful in making both of them sing to the same tunes, and sing they did for her, often in several voices in a rich and intricate harmony. For all her singularity, she knew modern art and its movement. She valued abstraction for what it could teach her about the design of paintings, but she had no wish to practice it. Her depth of humanity and her understanding of nature called upon the greatest power of emotional expression that painting is capable of, and led her inevitably towards the Expressionist camp. Fully able to be measured with any international company, establishing a context for her is much less a matter of argument than of getting her better known internationally. This exhibition, this book, will take another step forward in this incomplete process. They are greatly to be welcomed for that.