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The forgotten artist behind Ireland’s favourite painting


Children from Glasgow’s slums, bleak seascapes, village fishermen at work … the vibrant visions of Joan Eardley are finding a new following

J oan Eardley, who died aged only 42 in 1963, is barely known in England. In 2007 the National Galleries of Scotland mounted a full retrospective, which attracted a new Scottish audience to her art. Currently, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art offers a more focused exhibition, concentrating on her passion for two places: Townhead, a poor part of Glasgow; and Catterline, a small fishing village a hundred miles north of Glasgow, on the Kincardineshire coast. Yet there are no known plans for this show to travel to any other part of Britain, even though Eardley, acclaimed as an artist of world-class importance, had an English father and was born in Sussex.

Eardley’s love of steamed puddings may have been an ingredient in her attractive sturdiness. Her close friendships and affairs with a handful of women, as well the affection and respect she inspired in her neighbours and within the art world, sustained her, but did not always keep recurrent depression at bay. But it was her colossal drive to create that, above all, isolated her and took her to places where few could follow. Her untimely death, from cancer, cut short her career. Yet with each exhibition and every new publication on her art, her stature grows.

Soon after acquiring her first two-room cottage in the village, No 1 Catterline, she expressed satisfaction with her new surroundings: “It’s night – and the fire is giving a great, flickering light – and the lamplight too. It’s a great wee house. The floor is all levels at once. And the table three tarry boards nailed together. There’s a great big bed, half wood and half spring. A Grannie’s pot, a bucket and a basin that’s about all except for three lovely wee chairs. I’m sitting looking out at the darkness and the sea. I think I shall paint here. This is a strange place – it always excites me.”

• Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. nationalgalleries.org .

• This article was amended on 17 February 2017. An earlier version said incorrectly that Townhead was “part of the Old Gorbals”.

It makes you wonder: how many brilliant lost, neglected and forgotten artists can there be? How many Rodriguezes? How many Onyeabors? And as we enter a musical world increasingly controlled by algorithms on streaming services, will our passive listening consign the forgotten to the dusty corners of the internet forever? Cue Forgotify , a website that only plays songs that no-one has listened to on Spotify. Its mission statement? ‘4 millions songs on Spotify have never been played. Not even once. Let’s change that.’

The only control you have on the site is the ability to press ‘next’. It doesn’t try and define your taste according to your postcode or voting habits. It contains music of all genres as well as spoken word. In the last hour I’ve listened to some really random stuff including The Plasmatics, Handel, Memphis Slim, music from Poland, India and Pakistan and some flute duets inspired by the Pygmies of the Ituri Forest. It’s a fine effort to buoy obscure artists in the digital world and balance the mouse and the men.

We want your suggestions. Colleagues and friends went for dEUS, Mogwai, The Go-Betweens, Wire, Fatima Mansions, Ladytron, XX Teens, Charlottefield, Chris Cohen and I was also reminded that Bach was known simply as a jobbing organist during his lifetime and only became The Greatest Composer That Ever Lived the following century. So which artist would you like to see given more recognition and attention – and why? Let us know in the comments below or using #lostgenius.

It might be a day to feel left out, just another Saturday, ordinary and one-of-a-kind, when I’m singularly content with being single.

It might verge on narcissism to send a valentine to myself; although, I think, no more so than to expect one from another.

I have not had the attention of a lover to last a lifetime—although, who knows into eternity. Does that mean I’m lacking or lonely or left out of romance?

I cannot look at the moon and believe I am unloved, sense a breeze and be unmoved, know the birds’ song and feel forgotten.

“What a fool you must be,” said my head to my heart, or my sterner to my softer self.”
~ Anne Brontë,  Agnes Grey

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton . Thank you.

Children from Glasgow’s slums, bleak seascapes, village fishermen at work … the vibrant visions of Joan Eardley are finding a new following

J oan Eardley, who died aged only 42 in 1963, is barely known in England. In 2007 the National Galleries of Scotland mounted a full retrospective, which attracted a new Scottish audience to her art. Currently, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art offers a more focused exhibition, concentrating on her passion for two places: Townhead, a poor part of Glasgow; and Catterline, a small fishing village a hundred miles north of Glasgow, on the Kincardineshire coast. Yet there are no known plans for this show to travel to any other part of Britain, even though Eardley, acclaimed as an artist of world-class importance, had an English father and was born in Sussex.

Eardley’s love of steamed puddings may have been an ingredient in her attractive sturdiness. Her close friendships and affairs with a handful of women, as well the affection and respect she inspired in her neighbours and within the art world, sustained her, but did not always keep recurrent depression at bay. But it was her colossal drive to create that, above all, isolated her and took her to places where few could follow. Her untimely death, from cancer, cut short her career. Yet with each exhibition and every new publication on her art, her stature grows.

Soon after acquiring her first two-room cottage in the village, No 1 Catterline, she expressed satisfaction with her new surroundings: “It’s night – and the fire is giving a great, flickering light – and the lamplight too. It’s a great wee house. The floor is all levels at once. And the table three tarry boards nailed together. There’s a great big bed, half wood and half spring. A Grannie’s pot, a bucket and a basin that’s about all except for three lovely wee chairs. I’m sitting looking out at the darkness and the sea. I think I shall paint here. This is a strange place – it always excites me.”

• Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. nationalgalleries.org .

• This article was amended on 17 February 2017. An earlier version said incorrectly that Townhead was “part of the Old Gorbals”.

Children from Glasgow’s slums, bleak seascapes, village fishermen at work … the vibrant visions of Joan Eardley are finding a new following

J oan Eardley, who died aged only 42 in 1963, is barely known in England. In 2007 the National Galleries of Scotland mounted a full retrospective, which attracted a new Scottish audience to her art. Currently, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art offers a more focused exhibition, concentrating on her passion for two places: Townhead, a poor part of Glasgow; and Catterline, a small fishing village a hundred miles north of Glasgow, on the Kincardineshire coast. Yet there are no known plans for this show to travel to any other part of Britain, even though Eardley, acclaimed as an artist of world-class importance, had an English father and was born in Sussex.

Eardley’s love of steamed puddings may have been an ingredient in her attractive sturdiness. Her close friendships and affairs with a handful of women, as well the affection and respect she inspired in her neighbours and within the art world, sustained her, but did not always keep recurrent depression at bay. But it was her colossal drive to create that, above all, isolated her and took her to places where few could follow. Her untimely death, from cancer, cut short her career. Yet with each exhibition and every new publication on her art, her stature grows.

Soon after acquiring her first two-room cottage in the village, No 1 Catterline, she expressed satisfaction with her new surroundings: “It’s night – and the fire is giving a great, flickering light – and the lamplight too. It’s a great wee house. The floor is all levels at once. And the table three tarry boards nailed together. There’s a great big bed, half wood and half spring. A Grannie’s pot, a bucket and a basin that’s about all except for three lovely wee chairs. I’m sitting looking out at the darkness and the sea. I think I shall paint here. This is a strange place – it always excites me.”

• Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. nationalgalleries.org .

• This article was amended on 17 February 2017. An earlier version said incorrectly that Townhead was “part of the Old Gorbals”.

It makes you wonder: how many brilliant lost, neglected and forgotten artists can there be? How many Rodriguezes? How many Onyeabors? And as we enter a musical world increasingly controlled by algorithms on streaming services, will our passive listening consign the forgotten to the dusty corners of the internet forever? Cue Forgotify , a website that only plays songs that no-one has listened to on Spotify. Its mission statement? ‘4 millions songs on Spotify have never been played. Not even once. Let’s change that.’

The only control you have on the site is the ability to press ‘next’. It doesn’t try and define your taste according to your postcode or voting habits. It contains music of all genres as well as spoken word. In the last hour I’ve listened to some really random stuff including The Plasmatics, Handel, Memphis Slim, music from Poland, India and Pakistan and some flute duets inspired by the Pygmies of the Ituri Forest. It’s a fine effort to buoy obscure artists in the digital world and balance the mouse and the men.

We want your suggestions. Colleagues and friends went for dEUS, Mogwai, The Go-Betweens, Wire, Fatima Mansions, Ladytron, XX Teens, Charlottefield, Chris Cohen and I was also reminded that Bach was known simply as a jobbing organist during his lifetime and only became The Greatest Composer That Ever Lived the following century. So which artist would you like to see given more recognition and attention – and why? Let us know in the comments below or using #lostgenius.


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