Book of the Week: Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae

Artist Joan Eardley was just 42 when she died of breast cancer in 1963. Widely admired at her death, her expressionist Scottish landscapes and realistic depictions of Glasgow slum children have continued to attract attention in the decades since then.  Her 2007 retrospective at the National Gallery of Scotland drew enthusiastic crowds.

Christopher Andreae’s beautiful and insightful new book on the artist (my Book of the Week) is published to mark the 50th anniversary of Eardley’s death. For the first time, it provides a rounded assessment of her life and work, reproducing a large number of previously unpublished works tracked down by our tireless author in public and private collections. He also explores the impact of the artist’s relationships on her painting, reproducing for the first time a selection from Eardley’s affectionate and gentle love letters to her friend Audrey Walker, previously embargoed.

Christopher Andreae will be talking about Eardley a lot over the next few months (and he’s very good at it).  On Friday 12 April, you can catch him on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and on Saturday 6 April he gives a talk with book-signing at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, whose anniversary exhibition of Eardley opens today.  On 16 April at The National Gallery of Scotland he tackles the tricky questions ‘Joan Eardley – Modern or Traditional? Scottish or Universal?’

Then on 30 April our indefatigable author will be in London for a talk at the Portland Gallery, on the eve of their Eardley exhibition, and is booked to appear at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries on 31 May.

The book has already caught the attention of the Scottish press. ‘A NEW biography of one of Scotland’s best-known female artists has lifted the lid on her long-time relationship with another woman – 50 years after her death’, wrote Brian Ferguson on 20 March in The Scotsman, prompting similar stories in The Times in Scotland and The Herald, several readers’ letters, and a pointed response from our author himself.

But it’s the paintings themselves that speak most directly. Eardley was a prolific painter and an even more prolific drawer, driven by a sense of urgency to create. As Christopher Andreae writes eloquently at the end of his book: ‘There is a fascinating, compelling, elemental quality in her art that has not only survived the decades since her demise but that still forcefully demands the attention and affection of viewers.’

Lucy Myers, Managing Director

Joan Eardley

Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae. 2013.  Hardback.  198 pages. 176 colour and 15 b&w illustrations. £40 / $80