It is 100 years since the birth of Scottish painter Joan Eardley. Despite a career cut cruelly short by illness, she remains one of the nation’s greatest artists.
Tragically, Eardley lost her life to cancer at the age of only 42. Due to the spread of the disease, her eyesight deteriorated in the months before her death.
Born on May 18 1921, in Sussex, she relocated to her mother’s native Scotland in 1939 and studied at Glasgow School of Art.
She has become known both for her unmistakeable depictions of Glasgow’s street children and the atmospheric land and seascapes she created while living in Catterline, on the Aberdeenshire coast.
Now Eardley’s family is marking what would have been her centenary year with a series of exhibitions and events across Scotland.
In our video, we hear from Fife Cultural Trust curator Lesley Lettice and University of Dundee curator Matthew Jarron. Each discuss a work of Eardley’s that belongs to their collection.
As part of the centenary celebrations, Perth Museum and Art Gallery will host a major Eardley exhibition with works being loaned by well-known Scottish collections as well as London’s prestigious Fleming Collection.
The exhibition will run from November 27 until March 31 2022 showcasing some of Eardley’s most significant works. These include her bold atmospheric paintings of the sea and iconic paintings and sketches of children.
Collections officer Amy Fairley of Culture Perth and Kinross says: “We have some really amazing work. The more time I spend looking at her work, the more I fall in love with it.
“We have two of Eardley’s paintings in our collection and both pieces will be on display in the exhibition.”
One of works in Perth has a painting on either side of the canvas: “On one side there’s a painting of children playing and on the back there’s a fireplace. So it’s showing her working practises, utilising any spare piece of canvas or board she could get her hands on.”
Amy adds: “There’s a story that she used to discard some of the sketches she did of the kids and they would pick them up and make paper aeroplanes. Now these sketches are going for thousands of pounds.
“I’m hoping to have a little station in the exhibition where kids can make their own paper aeroplanes.”
A Dundee Eardley
Snow II, which is owned by The University of Dundee, will also feature in the Perth exhibition.
Painted in around 1960, close to the end of Eardley’s life, it shows a wintry scene in Catterline. She could be found working in all weathers in a bid to catch the ever-changing appearance of the north-east coast’s land and sea.
Amy says: “There are some amazing anecdotes about her waiting for a storm and zipping down on her scooter.
“She was a bit like Monet, as well. She painted the same scenes, but at different times of the year and in different weather conditions.
“You just wonder where her career would have taken her if she had gone on to live a longer life. It’s so tragic.”
A free online conference about Joan Eardley is being held by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee on June 2. Discover more here.