LONDON – One of the reasons I was first drawn to Scottish art was because it seemed to feature so many important female artists. This autumn, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is holding Modern Scottish Women, an exhibition highlighting this contribution, and coincidentally, Scottish women are particularly well represented in Sotheby’s November Scottish Art sale.
Anne Redpath was one of the leading figures of the Edinburgh Group in the 1940s and 50s, and central to the artistic life of the city, who also travelled widely across Europe. Known mainly for her still lifes and landscapes, painted in thick, vibrant impasto, her works have achieved some of the highest prices at auction for any Scottish artist. In the sale we have an exceptional still life of Spanish Candlesticks, a church interior probably painted on one of her trips to Spain or the Canary Islands, together with a coastal view.
Joan Eardley’s depictions of the Glasgow back streets typified what was for her the character of the city. Her studio was located in the rundown area of Townhead, and it was here that she focused her painting. Eardley was part of the community in which she worked, and she concentrated largely on the children that teemed through the streets. Glasgow Boy is a typical portrait of one of these children, probably one of the Samson family, who Eardley was close to, and whose numerous children Eardley painted with affection and candour over a ten-year period. The result is a powerful one, and today even small pastel sketches of these Glasgow children are highly prized by collectors.
One of the leading lights of the contemporary Scottish Art scene is Alison Watt. A Glasgow School of Art graduate in the 1980s, she was initially famous for her monumental canvases often showing female figures and drapery. Her paintings have gradually developed to be entirely overtaken by the latter. This work dates from the early 1990s and shows an uncompromising nude portrayal of a seated model and pears in a bare studio environment.