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Joan Eardley
(18 May 1921 - 16 August 1963) Scotland

Joan Eardley



Joan Eardley, born in Warnham, West Sussex, where her parents were dairy farmers, as Joan Kathleen Harding Eardley, was a lesbian artist.Her father suffered a mental breakdown, having been wounded in a gas attack during World War I; when Joan was nine, he took his own life. Joan's mother then tookJoan and her sister to live with her own mother in Blackheath, London. In 1929 an aunt paid for the girls' education at a private school, where Joan's artistic talent was first recognised.

Joan trained at the local art school in Blackheath for a short time, and in 1938 enrolled at Goldsmiths College which she attended for one term. In 1939 Joan, her mother and her sister moved to Glasgow to live with her mother's relatives in Bearsden. In 1940 Joan enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art. She met painter Margot Sandeman, who became a close friend. In 1943 she was awarded a diploma in drawing and painting, and won the Sir James Guthrie Prize for portraiture.

After graduating Joan trained as a teacher, but she never liked classroom teaching and chose instead to work with a joiner and also went back to London for a short time. She continued her studies in 1947 at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath under James Cowie, who influenced her choice of everyday subject matter. A scholarship enabled her to travel to Italy and France for a year in 1948 and 1949, six months in fact. During this time she saw many works by Italian Renaissance artists in particular she admired fresco cycles by Masaccio and Piero della Francesca. She valued these artists' humanity and the sculptural aspects of their work. On her return to Scotland in 1949 she mounted an exhibition of work done in Italy, including a number of striking scenes of peasants, beggars, kids and old women.

Joan set up a studio in Glasgow, close to the deprived Townhead area, where she became known for her drawings and paintings of poor city children, often playing in the streets in ragged clothes, the older girls looking after younger siblings. She also drew numerous scenes of the shipyards of Port Glasgow. Joan had developed a unique style and she soon had a reputation as a highly individual, realistic and humane artist of urban life. She was often to be seen transporting her easel and paints around Glasgow in an old pram.

In the early 1950s while convalescing from mumps Joan was taken by a friend to visit Catterline, a small fishing village near Stonehaven, then in Kincardineshire (now Aberdeenshire). Her friend Annette Stephen bought her a cottage there and she started to spend part of each year away from Glasgow in Catterline. Joan bought another more suitable, but still basic cottage there in 1954; it had no electricity, running water or sanitation. She often worked outdoors and often in poor weather. Joan became the focus of the "Catterline School" of artists, a group who were increasingly drawn to the village during the 1950s.

Joan's 1943 Self-portrait was her diploma at the Glasgow School of Art. It was her only excursion into formal portraiture and she was awarded the school's Sir James Guthrie Prize for it. She visited Venice in 1949. During her stay she worked mainly in charcoal and pastel. Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer which spread to the brain causing great pain but she did not accept treatment. She was cared for by friends and died at Killearn Hospital at the age of 42. Her ashes were scattered on Catterline beach.


Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia & http://www.heraldscotland.com/

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