Joan Eardley (1921–63) was a painter born in Warnham, Sussex. She is today regarded as a leading Scottish post-war painter.
She began her studies at Goldsmiths’ College of Art in 1938, then in 1940 transferred to the Glasgow School of Art, also studying at Hospitalfield, Arbroath. During the 1940s Eardley made a number of visits to the Isle of Arran with her friend and fellow artist Margot Sandeman.
Eardley went on to win a number of prizes for her work, travelling to Italy and France on a Carnegie bursary. She eventually took a studio in Glasgow, where she painted some of her neighbours, including children, working in oils, watercolours, chalk and ink.
Joan Eardley produced landscapes, some inspired by visits to Catterline in the 1950s. Latterly, she lived and worked in this small village on the North East Scottish coast, remaining there until her untimely death in 1963. Van Gogh had some influence on her work.
Exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy (1943–64, 1976), the Royal Glasgow Institute (1944–63) and the Royal Academy (1953). In 1955 she was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy, and in 1963 was made a Member.
In 1963 she exhibited with Anne Redpath, William MacTaggart and Philipson as ‘Four Scottish Painters’ at the Arts Council Gallery. Two of her works, Salmon Nets on the Shore and A Wave Study II, were owned by the Scottish Committee of Arts Council. Eardley had little interest in frames, and some of her works were enclosed in rough-cut wood. Exhibited works included: Street Kids, The Shipbuilder’s Street, A Pot of Potatoes and Flowers Between Cornfields. Her studies of Glasgow included old shops, children, poverty, old buildings and walls with tattered posters.
One such work was Back Street with Children Playing (c. 1957) which was shown at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1957 and illustrated in The Studio (Vol. 154, August 1957, p. 56) in black and white in the same year. At least one of her works was purchased by Birmingham’s City Museum and Art Gallery.
Eardley on Arran
Perhaps the best-known works from Joan Eardley's time on Arran is the painting 'Corrie Shore', as well as her many sketches of Corrie village and its inhabitants, including Jeannie Kelso who lived in Hillcroft, the home besides the Tabernacle, the studio Eardley shared with Sandeman.
A number of letters from Joan Eardley recorded her time on Arran. In one correspondence with Margot Sandeman in Autumn 1944 she writes about the colour of Arran’s trees:
“Quite suddenly they have all turned properly – into the most tremendous colours I have ever seen. The oak trees have gone back into the kind of brownish, yellowish colour that they were in the spring, and others are almost pink. And others, because they haven’t turned I suppose, look quite blue beside them. It’s impossible to say in words – the bracken is red, not orange as it was, but dark red, and some of the trees have lost their leaves almost altogether and look sometimes very pale and sometimes very black beside all the other colour. The ghastly thing is, how can it ever be painted?
Eardley also recorded her own experiences battling the elements on Arran, a familair scene to many visitors:
“The picture I painted yesterday was of a fir tree in the castle wood from the shore part of the Brodick road. I tried hard to finish it - but I haven’t, quite. About 11 o’clock, deluges of rain came on and I felt absolutely fed up, and then I suddenly thought that I wasn’t going to be beaten by the blasted rain again. So I erected a little tent over my canvas with my mac and your bike and some pieces of rope…it must have looked pretty funny to the people from the road…today it is raining, too, only this time there is a hurricane as well, and I don’t think the little tent would stay up.”