Map of Paintings in UK Public Collection Venues

Joan Eardley around the UK

By Alice Strang, Modern and Contemporary Art Curator and Art Historian

Amidst the Scottish Women In The Arts Research Network discussions about celebrating Joan Eardley’s centenary, I wondered where people could see her work during 2021 and beyond. I turned to the marvellous Art UK website which describes itself as ‘the online home for every public art collection in the UK’. It revealed that paintings by Eardley are held in 36 public collections, from Inverness Museum & Art Gallery in the Highlands, to the National Trust property, Mottisfont Abbey, in Hampshire. This inspired me to create an Art UK ‘Curation’, a tool which they introduced during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, whereby absolutely anyone can select and write about a group of works on the site and make it public if they wish. I therefore contacted the curators of the 36 institutions involved, including several fellow SWARN members, to see if they would like to help realise this idea. As not all of Eardley’s publicly-held works on paper are yet on Art UK, we focussed on her paintings.

Many stories quickly arose about life-time and posthumous acquisitions of Eardley’s work. The first painting acquired for a public collection was Catterline Coastguard Cottages of 1951 which was purchased by Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow in 1951. The most recent acquisition was in 2015,  when Seated Boy of 1955 was accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by Her Majesty’s Government and was allocated to the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow.

The largest representations of Eardley’s work are held by the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, the Hunterian and at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. Her paintings hang from BBC Scotland’s headquarters in Glasgow, to Campbeltown Grammar School in the Kintyre Peninsula to a tutor’s room in an Oxford college. Sadly, Eardley’s painting Catterline  was destroyed in the Mackintosh Building fire at the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. 

Eardley’s depictions of the Townhead district of Glasgow and of Catterline, the fishing village on the Scottish north-east coast, have been given to public collections by poets and writers including Eric Linklater (University of Aberdeen), by the artist’s family (including to the Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, Edinburgh and the Lillie Art Gallery, Milngavie), collectors such as the Kirkcaldy businessman J. Douglas Hutchison (National Trust for Scotland) and were purchased from her final, triumphant solo exhibition, held at Roland, Browse & Delbanco in London, shortly before her death in 1963 (including Abbot Hall, Kendal, Huddersfield Art Gallery and Birmingham Museums Trust).

Thanks to curatorial teamwork across the country, we were able to publish the curation ‘From the Highlands to Hampshire: Collecting Joan Eardley’ on Art UK. To accompany it, I created this map to show the public collections which contain paintings by Joan Eardley. Hopefully there is one near you and if it is not on display, you will be able to see it on Art UK and therefore join SWARN in celebrating the centenary of this important artist’s birth.