Joan Eardley (1921-1963)… my newest discovery


While in Sedona at a painting workshop last May, someone mentioned the artist Joan Eardley. I’d never heard of her but today, as I struggled to move forward with my more experimental work, I researched her on the internet and discovered the powerful work of a Scottish painter cut short at age 42 by breast cancer.


Below are a few of her paintings found on the National Galleries Scotland website.


Generally drawn to create work in warm and bright colours, I am in awe of the colour and richness of her neutrals especially seen in the work she did in the small village of Catterline, Scotland. Look at the painting below and observe the variety of greys but also notice the warmth of the greys themselves as well as the yellows and the splashes of orange and red. It’s a warm painting despite the fact that it’s of a snow (read: COLD) scene. It really is a great example to me of the power of greys.


Joan Eardley, “Snow”, oil on board, 101.5 x 113.5cm, ~1958


Look at the boldness of her brushstrokes, so expressive and full of paint. The size of my computer screen can hardly do these works justice. Many of them are over three feet in dimension. How much more powerful are these paintings when one is standing in front of them? One day.


Joan Eardley, “Catterline in Winter,” oil on board, 120.70 x 130.80cm, 1963


Eardley  was also known for her paintings of the children of Glasgow where she also had a studio. The painting below done in the last year or two of her life, includes bits of newspaper and metallic foil (thought to be, appropriately candy wrappers). Can’t you just see these kids?


Joan Eardley, “Children and Chalk Wall 3”, oil with newspaper and metal foil on canvas, 61 x 68.60cm, 1962-63


In my search for images of Eardley’s work, I came across this blog. It has many images of both the children painted by Eardley and her Catterline landscapes.


Although information tells us that she painted the village of Catterline in all weathers and seasons, the canvases that dominated my research were the ones painted in stormy cold weather. She worked on location as much as possible and as I think of my last plein air outing on Salt Spring Island on a sunny day in July, I am in awe at her determination to capture what she saw no matter what the conditions. Although the photo below shows her painting in sunny weather, this fascinating video shows a photo of her outside in stormy weather at Catterline. Wow.


Eardley painting on location on a sunny day
Joan Eardley painting at Catterline on a not so sunny day! Photo by Audrey Walker
Joan Eardley painting at Catterline on a not so sunny day! Photo by Audrey Walker

And since I love drawings, here’s one of Eardley’s. Such confidence.


Joan Eardley, “Grasses, Fencepost and Ditch-Catterline,” pen, ink and wash on paper, 25.2 x 20.2cm


I’d love to know your thoughts. Had you heard of Joan Eardley? What do you think of her paintings? Click on the title of this email blog (takes you to my website) and to leave me a comment.


Thanks for reading,



4 thoughts on “Joan Eardley (1921-1963)… my newest discovery”

  1. Elizabeth Pellett

    I was struck by my intense emotional response of dread as I caught view of the intense skies and the poverty of the children. Her work is powerful. Thanks for sharing. Bettie and Sera

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