Lot 29
  • 29


80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Joan Kathleen Harding Eardley, R.S.A.
  • Mrs Red Wallpaper
  • signed l.l.: JOAN EARDLEY
  • oil on canvas
  • 90 by 91cm., 35½ by 35¾in.


Christie's, Scotland, 22 November 1989, lot 639;
The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, where purchased by the present owner


Edinburgh, Society of Scottish Artists, 1948


C. Oliver, Joan Eardley, RSA, 1988, p.21


Condition Report prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition: The canvas is lined and is securely attached to a keyed wooden stretcher. This is providing a stable structural support. Paint surface: The paint surface has a relatively even varnish layer. There are a few small paint losses within the red paint on the centre right of the upper edge, a few small paint losses within the green/black impasto close to the upper part of right edge, a few small paint losses within the figure's hair, and two paint losses within the green to the right of the centre of the grandfather clock. Other very small scattered paint losses are also visible. There are small scattered areas of craquelure including corresponding to the paint losses mentioned above. These appear stable at present. There are also scattered areas of drying craquelure, most notably within the crimson paint of the grandfather clock and the sitter's black clothing. These are entirely stable and are attributable to the natural drying processes of the artist's materials. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows an opaque varnish layer which prevents the ultraviolet light from fully penetrating. Inspection under ultraviolet light also shows an intermittent vertical retouching running close to the upper part of the left edge, a spot of retouching on the chair towards the lower part of the left edge and a retouching on the figure's cheek. Summary: The painting would therefore appear to be in good condition.
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Catalogue Note

The present work, Mrs Red Wallpaper, is a striking and monumental early work by Eardley, exhibited at the Society of Scottish Artists in 1948, the year Eardley was elected a professional member. A critic from the Glasgow Herald was drawn to Eardley’s work in the exhibition, remarking: ‘Among the West of Scotland painters Joan Eardley, with two large interiors, hinting at both Gilman and Colquhoun-MacBryde school, is noteworthy…the colour is bold and the drawing is strong and personal.’ (C. Oliver, Joan Eardley, 1988, p.21). According to another review, Mrs Red Wallpaper was given a prime position in the 1948 exhibition: ‘…in the first room an important place rightly goes to Miss Eardley’s painting of a strange but wholly convincing interior.’ (F. Pearson, Joan Eardley, 2007, p.16). Eardley’s debt to the Post-Impressionists in the present work is clear, notably Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh, in the use of vivid and saturated colour and the decorative flatness of the composition. Christopher Andreae remarked: ‘Artists all carry round with them mental images of their favourite artists…Eardley carried Van Gogh.’ (C. Andreae, Joan Eardley, p.37). It is as if Eardley is fusing Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, (1888, Musée d’Orsay) and Madame Roulin Rocking the Cradle (1889, Art Institute of Chicago) in the expressive use of colour, playful articulation of perspective and the weighty and stylised rendering of the female figure. Andreae makes particular reference to Eardley’s stylistic confidence, observing: ‘The paintings have a richness of colour and pattern, along with a powerfully acute execution, that is quite exceptional in a young painter.’ (F. Pearson, p.16)

In Cordelia Oliver’s biography of Eardley, she contextualises the present work: 'the painting was inspired by something seen a year earlier on a visit to Lincoln; the wonderfully cluttered interior of a cottage belonging to one of Joan’s “discoveries” – an elderly woman she was always to remember as “Mrs Red Wallpaper”. As so often, Joan had made a drawing at the time and composed the painting later on in her Glasgow studio.’ (C. Oliver, p.21). Eardley had travelled to Lincoln in 1946 at just 25 years old to execute a commission, a mural on the history of costume (the work was not photographed and has since gone missing). While in Lincoln she lodged with the headmistress of Sincil Bank Secondary Modern Girls School, engaging and painting with the schoolgirls and creating studies of the locals.

In the present work, Eardley relishes in her almost anthropological artistic exploration of the seated Lincoln-resident surrounded by her belongings. Eardley has depicted the old woman in a wicker chair, her feet soaking in a bucket of water as she stares ahead with washing hanging from a rack drying in front of her open fireplace. Although formally a genre painting, Eardley articulates the character and interests of the figure through the objects and décor of her home, capturing more of a portrait. Eardley is creating a social record of the scene before her, playfully detailing the idiosyncrasies of the figure’s personal possessions: the Japonist print in an oriental frame; the carpet with its William Morris style motifs; the record player; the coffee grinder; and the wall-mounted taxidermy fish. The eclectic mix of objects gives the impression of a cultured and artistic if not rather eccentric household.

The present work is rare in subject matter for Eardley, and offers an outstanding example of her artistic mastery at a relatively early age in her career, which was to last only 15 years before her premature death in 1963. The monumental composition is executed with rich, saturated colours and decorative flatness, exuding the bold confidence of this visionary and progressive painter. Mrs. Red Wallpaper further captures Eardley’s untiring curiosity and interest in the people around her, and paves the way for her later focus on figurative work, specifically the characters she captured around her studio in the Townhead tenements of Glasgow.