In the early 1950s Joan Eardley began to rent a studio in the centre of Glasgow near City Chambers at 21 Cochrane Street. In the fourth-floor attic of the building, the studio was reached via a steep staircase. The walls were washed with blue distemper and with bright paint spattered across the floor. There was no elegance to this work-place and few comforts but it was a place of industrious creative endeavour, a powerhouse for her artistic energy. It was here that she began her series of chalk drawings and oil paintings of the local children. Photographs of the studio show drawings pinned to the beams and walls all around, smiling, grimacing and whistling from the sheets of paper. These drawings were often made on scraps of paper, sometimes on the invoice paper 'borrowed' from a bookbinder who worked in one of the lower floors of the building and joined together with paper-clips and staples.
In the streets surrounding her studio Eardley befriended several local families whose large numbers of children provided her with models for her studies and paintings. The best-known of the children who inspired her were the children of the Sampson family who she painted and drew for seven years or more; 'there are a large number of them, twelve, so I've always had a certain number of children from this family of any age I choose... some children I don't like... most of them I get on with... some interest me much more as characters... these ones I encourage... they don't need much encouragement - they don't pose - they come up and say "will you paint me?"... they are full of what's gone on today - whose broken into what shop and whose flung a pie in whose face - it goes on and on.' (ibid Pearson, p.31) The children were in and out of her studio, clattering up the stairs and running around so that much of Eardley's time was spent trying to get them to stay still so that she could draw them. She had to work rapidly before they got bored and rushed off to play children's games in the street and this gives her drawings a wonderful immediacy and energy.
Girl with a Green Scarf displays Eardley’s confident use of colour; the fiery red hair of the young girl, who may be one of the young Sampson children, creates a vibrant contrast to the ultramarine background that it is set against. The mellow green of the scarf balances these more vivacious, dynamic colours. Eardley celebrated the vibrant character of the children of Townhead, portraying them kindly but capturing the tough reality of their impoverished lives. Her depictions of children are not sentimentalised; they are character studies of a neglected strata of society. She recognised the vitality of spirit that existed within the energetic children who played amongst the shattered remains of the tenements of Post War Glasgow. 'Eardley's deep love of humanity was manifest in images of the resilience of the human spirit among the poor, the old and the very young.' (ibid Pearson, p.8)
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