This week on a short trip to the Scottish borders curiosity was piqued by a rather plain, yellow poster advertising the current 'Joan Eardley; A Life in Painting' exhibition at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. What a hidden gem this exhibition turned out to be!
Although born in England, Joan Eardley (1921-1963) became known for her work created whilst living in Glasgow and in the fishing village of Catterline near Aberdeen. Eardley is now considered to be one of the most influential Scottish artists of her generation. If you're not already familiar with her work, click HERE to see a slideshow of her paintings.
The Gracefield exhibition, drawn largely from it's own collection of Eardley acquisitions, has an impressive array of work on display from her dramatic, wave-spewing landscapes at Catterline to her colourful, mixed media pieces depicting children from Glasgow's tenement slums in all their tatty haired and sooty fingered magnificence. Although the work is plentiful, you get a particular sense of it being allowed space to breathe in the upstairs gallery which is dominated by her landscape work.
The exhibition is further enhanced by the black & white portraits taken of Eardley by her friend and photographer, Audrey Walker and a room dedicated to the work of artists who were influential to, or influenced by, Eardley. In this room you will also find several paintngs by another friend of Eardley's, fellow Scottish artist Margot Sandeman. An unexpected and welcome pleasure.
Two additional treats are a short black & white film of the artist at work and the chance to handle one of her sketchbooks. The film footage was taken from a longer documentary made by the BBC in the 1950's covering the work of contemporary Scottish artists. You get a super snapshot of Eardley drawing with pastels at lightening quick speed to capture a local child who continues to fidget and beam to camera throughout.
Although unable to share that particular piece of film with you, here is an alternative clip about Eardley from a 2010 episode of the BBC's Coast series
If you are in the Dumfries area we'd thoroughly recommend a visit to the exhibition which continues until 24th August 2013 between 10am-5pm daily.
Gracefield Arts Centre
28 Edinburgh Road
Came across this nineteenth century oil painting yesterday. It's a detailed study for a much larger painting involving a grand landscape - all black & damnation reds, very dramatic. However, with this smaller study I rather like the pantomime quality of the bull's stance - as if the back's not quite sure what the front's up to.
This is the first time a 'fit for purpose' bookmark has made it's way into the Serge & Tweed 'Hidden Book Treasure' category. It's not terribly unusual to discover a bookmark hidden within the pages of an old book, often too dull to register. Many's the encounter with those gold embossed, 'Memento from Longleat' type, leather tongues. However, an exception has been made for this.
It was found nestled in a large collection of old childrens books once belonging to a young girl named Marion.The books were mostly from the early 1930's and had been very well cared for; paper covers intact & almost as bright as the day they were bought. The condition of book mark reflects this care.
The book it fell from was an almost perfect, early edition of, 'The Fairy Caravan' by Beatrix Potter. Just one of a whole box full of chilldren's literature delights, carefully chosen for a fledgling library.
It may come as no surprise to discover that each book within the collection was inscribed with love & best wishes from Mother & Dad.
A Collins Classics edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales from the late 1930's. Not anything very much to look at, infact the cloth cover is quite tatty, yet the quirky personal inscription inside and the colour plates appealed enough to see cash being exchanged for it.
The Giver-of-the-gift has seen fit to give a book of fairy tales to mark a happy anniversary. Romantic, yes. However, in the inscription this sentiment appears a little less so to the 'modern outsider's eye' with his choice of address and wording...
A flea market find retrieved from a dusty box of menus and football ephemera.
A GPO greetings telegram illustrated by Clifford Bayly complete with age-spotted envelope. Apologies for not having more to tell you about Clifford Bayly, only that his illustrations pop up occasionally in books and pamphlets from 1950's - 1980's. Would love to know a little more.
Such a jolly, vibrant greeting would have been an absolute pleasure to receive, despite the wording inside being somewhat plain!