Visit the Joan Eardley Exhibition

An exhibition covering every aspect of Joan Eardley’s career is being held from 14 November 2007 to 13 February 2008 in the Royal Scottish Academy Building, part of the National Gallery of Scotland complex. This is the largest exhibition of the renowned Scottish artist’s works that has ever been held and includes everything from pastel sketches to oil paintings, from her student work through to the majestic seascapes she painted in her later years.

Joan Eardley was born in Sussex in 1921. She moved to Glasgow and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1940 to 1943 where she met fellow student Margot Sandeman and the two artists remained close friends throughout her life. Her works made an impression on the art world early in her career, with her painting “Street Scene” receiving a favorable review in the Glasgow Herald in May 1940. It is believed that British artist Stanley Spencer’s way of depicting details relating to everyday life had an influence on Joan Eardley and throughout her life she explored the theme of portraying the daily reality of life that she saw around her. This theme is evident in works such as “Three Children at a Tenement Window” and “Street Kids”.

Joan Eardley moved to London in 1946, and in 1947 she spent about six months studying under the tutorship of James Cowie at the Patrick Allan Fraser School of Art at Hospitalfield, just outside Arbroath. Although they had their differences, Eardley acknowledged that she learned a great deal from Cowie. She met war veteran Angus Neil while studying at Hospitalfield and they formed a close bond, a friendship that continued even after they each went their own way.

In 1948 Joan Eardley was awarded a Carnegie scholarship by the Royal Scottish Academy as well as a traveling scholarship from the Glasgow School of Art. She used the opportunity to spend time in Florence, Venice and Paris. She returned to Glasgow in the spring of 1949 and that same year she held her first solo exhibition at the Glasgow School of Art, as well as taking part in an exhibition held at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. These exhibitions were met with a positive response from critics. It was at this time that Eardley rented a studio in Glasgow and made a series of chalk drawings of local children, which stemmed from her astute observations of her immediate surroundings.

During the final ten years of Joan Eardley’s life she spent a great deal of time at her friend Annette Soper’s house in the small isolated fishing village of Catterline, south of Stonehaven. In 1955 she bought her own house in Catterline and it was here that she painted many of her seascapes, with her fondness for painting scenes of wild stormy seas coming to the fore.

Joan Eardley’s health deteriorated from the late 1950s and she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1963. Her last exhibition in London in 1963 was met with glowing reviews. It was a great loss to the art world when she died of cancer on 16 August 1963 at the age of 42.

Visitors to the Joan Eardley Exhibition can look forward to gaining insight into this unique artist’s life and will be left in no doubt as to why her works are considered to be among the most celebrated in Scottish art.