Joan Kathleen Harding EARDLEY 1921 - 1963
ARSA 1955, RSA 1963
BiographyJoan Kathleen Harding Eardley was born Warnham, Sussex, of Anglo-Scottish parentage. Joan Eardley began her art studies at Goldsmith’s College in London, but on her father’s death this was cut short, her family returning to their mother's home near Glasgow and the young artist then attended the Glasgow School of Art (GSA)(1940-3).
In 1947 she spent some months at the residential art school at Hospitalfield, near Arbroath, training under James COWIE, returning to GSA to take up post-Diploma scholarship. In 1948-9 she travelled in Italy and France and the resulting sketches and paintings were exhibited at her first solo show at GSA in 1949.
During the early 1950s Eardley devoted much time to the depressed areas of Glasgow, making sketches and taking photographs, which she worked up into larger oil paintings. Some of her most haunting and perceptive portraits of Glasgow’s poor children date to this period. She had made friends with Lady Audrey WALKER during her College days in Glasgow and throughout her life she stayed in close contact, often visiting her friend at her farm in Ettrickdale which lies between Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. These visits offered the chance to study a working farm and she made numerous sketches of events in the farming calendar such as the annual sheep shearing, which Audrey later bequeathed to the Gracefield Permanent Collection.
In 1950 she began to paint at Catterline, taking up semi-residence there in 1956. There she painted powerful seascapes and landscapes around the Aberdeenshire coastline, her expressive brushwork and thick paint conveying the force of the sea and wind. She still made regular trips back to Glasgow to portrait her beloved street children, but by 1960 an undiagnosed cancer had begun to severely affect her health. Although she persisted with her painting in Catterline she was less able to travel.
As has been stated, she worked with the deprived inner city poor. For much of her artistic working life she outdefined her contemporaries in Scottish art with her intrinsic humanity. Joan had become well known and trusted by the people of Glasgow and she worked richly with the working classes of this industrially dominated city, with it's urchins and emotive, honest, no-holds-barred street-life. Joan used a range of unconventional material in her artwork which included brown paper, newsprint, chalks and crayons. She is now particularly noted for her innovative use of sandpaper as a backdrop to her urban portraiture, upon which she layered pastels and chalks. This approach gives her artwork a particularly unique texture and aspect. In tandem with this urbanity, or perhaps as a respite from the iniquities of her awareness and empathy with Scottish city economic deprivation, part of her heart lay in representing Scottish landscapes, and seascapes, within both of which she has proven to be a great Mistress.
Her work had been widely exhibited and was gaining strong critical acclaim with her nomination to the RSA in 1955 and solo exhibition in Edinburgh and London.
She died at Killearn Hospital aged just 42, with her mother, sister and Lady Audrey Walker by her side.