A selection of artworks by the important and prolific, though sadly short-lived, Scottish artist Joan Eardley were offered for sale in the Scottish Paintings & Sculpture auction on 4 June. The offered drawings, sketches and paintings represent key subjects and techniques within Eardley’s extensive oeuvre. Charlotte Riordan, Head of Contemporary Art and a Scottish Paintings specialist, explores Eardley's compelling subjects, both urban and rural.
Eardley was devoted to Glasgow, particularly to the fast-disappearing areas to the east which were being torn down and re-developed. She recognised that the sense of community which
Sold for £30,000 (premium inclusive).
Nothing represented this essence for Eardley more than the local children: “…they are Glasgow – this richness Glasgow has – I hope it will always have – a living thing, an intense quality – you can never know what you are going to do but as long as Glasgow has this I’ll always want to paint.”
Eardley had an attic studio in Townhead at 21 Cochrane Street, now long since demolished. It was extremely basic, consisting only of a large free-standing stove, a cooker, a workbench and sink. It did, however, have a glazed ceiling and outer wall making it perfect for painting. It was here that the majority of her famous depictions of the local street children were painted. Eardley had a particularly strong relationship with the Samson family whose twelve children of various ages all sat for her at one point or another. She had her favourites amongst them – those that would come knocking on her door asking to be painted – and they recur as recognisable characters in her drawings.
Children were not her only subjects, however, and she was also drawn to older sitters; her studies empathetic, respectful and evocative of a sense of pathos. The small work offered here demonstrates Eardley's innate talent for capturing gesture and mannerism, using even the scarcest and simplest of lines.
Eardley first visited the village of Catterline, in the north east of Scotland by chance in 1950. Captivated by the tempestuous sea views offered from its cliff-top vantage point, she ultimately divided her time between Glasgow and Catterline for the rest of her life. She lived and worked in various properties, and became a well-known figure in the village. Eardley continued to paint in all weathers creating the powerful, expressive works that so honestly capture the beauty and brutality of the north-east coastline.