Joan Kathleen Harding Eardley, was born in the rural village of Warnham in Sussex where her father was a farmer on 18 May 1921. When her father joined the Ministry for Agriculture in 1926, the Eardley's moved to London and tragically he died only two years after their move. Joan's talent was recognised in her childhood at school in Blackheath and she wanted nothing more than to become an artist. The Eardley's moved to Glasgow in 1939 and Joan was enrolled in the Glasgow School of Art, which she attended from January 1940 until June 1943. Her teacher Hugh Adam Crawford recalled his young student with affection and high regard, stating that 'her application was constant, intense and serious' (Joan Eardley R.S.A., (1921-1963) A Memorial Exhibition, exhibition catalogue for The Scottish Committee of the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1964, p. 4).
WWII prevented Joan from taking the Post-diploma Scholarship awarded in 1943 and with typical resilience she worked as a joiner's labourer for two years. Although she continued to paint, particularly in Corrie and Arran it was not until 1943 that she threw herself whole heartedly back into painting, by attending the Patrick Allan-Frazer School of Art near Arbroath. Five years later she became a professional member of the Society of Scottish Artists and also returned to the Glasgow School of Art to take the postponed Post-diploma Scholarship. She was awarded two travel scholarships and was subsequently abroad for eight months, in Florence, Assisi, Siena, Venice and Rome. When she returned to Glasgow, she reaffirmed her close connection with the city by exhibiting her scholarship work at the School of Art where she taught for two evenings every week. She took a studio in Cochrane Street near City Chambers and later moved to an old photographer's studio at 204 St James's Road in a district called Townhead which has now largely been swept away by the redevelopments of the 1960s and 1970s. The pictures she painted in Glasgow capture, in her own words 'the character of Glasgow [which] lies in its back street which are for me pictorially exciting. There is no social or political impetus behind my paintings of that part of Glasgow, as is sometimes suggested. The back streets mean almost entirely screaming, playing children - all over the streets - and only in the shadows of doorways groups of women, and at street corners groups of men, but always chiefly children and the noise of children.' (ibid, Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 7)
It is likely that the present picture was painted in 1962 at Catterline, the same year that she painted A Field of Oats and The Cornfield by the Sea. Eardley wrote to her friend Margot; 'I've got a series of paintings going at the end of my old cottage. I never seem to find that I want to move. It's a handy spot as no-one comes near and I can work away undisturbed. I just go on from one painting to another - just the grasses and the corn - it's oats this year, barley it was last year. There's a wee, windblown tree, and that's all. But every day and every week it looks a bit different - the flowers come and the corn grows so it is silly to shift about. I just leave my painting table out here, and my easle and my palette.' (Cordelia Oliver, Joan Eardley, RSA, 1988, p. 76)
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