Joan Eardley’s (1921-1963) portrayal of the streets and children of Glasgow first brought her work to public attention in the early 1950s, but it was her love affair with the tiny fishing village of Catterline and its surrounding landscape near Aberdeen that brought her both creative frustration and artistic fulfilment.
Joan met Audrey Walker, a talented violinist and photographer, in 1952 through a mutual friend and their shared love of music created an immediate bond. Audrey was born in Doncaster, but her father was from Dumfries. Audrey documented Joan at work at the Walker’s holiday cottage in the Ettrick Valley in the Scottish Borders, at Joan’s Glasgow Studio, and in the wild landscape of the Northeast. Her striking black and white photographs not only add up to a remarkable archive of her artist friend’s life, but also show Audrey’s considerable talent for seeing a good picture.
Joan Eardley died aged just 42 from cancer in August 1963, with her mother, sister, and Audrey by her side. Audrey and her husband Allan eventually retired to Dumfries in 1975 where she lived until her death in 1996.
Eardley’s paintings and drawings remain very special in that they reflect urban and rural Scotland in an expressive language, unlike any other artist. The cheeky grin of a Glasgow schoolchild, or the raw power of one of her seascapes, engage audiences today as much as they did when they were first exhibited over fifty years ago.
This exhibition features a selection of Eardley works bequeathed by Lady Audrey Walker in her will in 1997, works owned by The Dumfriesshire Educational Trust supplemented by loans from The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture, and selected loans from The Walker family.
Although many of Audrey’s photographs and her letters to Joan have been gifted to the National Galleries and National Library of Scotland, some of Audrey’s vast photographic archive was also generously gifted by her family to the Gracefield Collection in 2004.
Speaking on the exhibition, Chair of Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Communities Committee Ian Blake said: “It’s great that Kirkcudbright Galleries has been able to collaborate with Gracefield Arts Centre on bringing this exhibition to Kirkcudbright. Because of the Dumfries connection with Audrey Walker, Gracefield Arts Centre has a fascinating Eardley collection alongside special photographs of Eardley which really set the scene and the environment behind some of the paintings that Eardley produced. This exhibition is not to be missed.”
Vice Chair of Communities Committee Jackie McCamon said: “Despite the sudden tragedy of Eardley’s death, her volume and skill of her work meant that she was quickly becoming a very prolific Scottish artist. This exhibition gives visitors a real insight into her career spanning from Glasgow to Catterline, and her great friendship with Audrey Walker. It’s fantastic that two spotlight pieces from the exhibition have been loaned to Kirkcudbright Galleries from The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture, continuing our regions relations with partner galleries across Scotland.
Eardley Explored: The Art of Joan Eardley is on show at Kirkcudbright Galleries’ Gallery Two until 1 October. Suggested entry donation £3.