Too much information!
That phrase has been running through my mind all week, after Scottish artist, the late Joan Eardley, hit the headlines, because it’s been revealed that she wrote love letters to a woman.
A selection of the letters has been published in a new book. No-one will be surprised that she was a lesbian, although apparently this fact had been previously unconfirmed.
How tragic that this brilliant woman died of cancer in 1963 when she was just 42. In my opinion, she was one of the most gifted painters of the 20th century.
Her work, including her famous portraits of Glasgow street kids and her magnificent, wild seascapes painted outdoors, often in grim conditions at Catterline on the Aberdeenshire coast, never fails to move me. She continued to paint even when she was in bed, in the last stages of breast cancer.
The memory of her work is making me emotional as I write. And that’s the point - Joan Eardley’s paintings convey her passion, her drive, her dedication to her work; her love of landscape, the elements, and the power of paint on canvas to make a connection between the artist and the viewer.
What is to be gained from reading her private letters to her sweetheart? The argument is that an additional insight into her life, daily routine, and, yes, her sexuality, will add to our understanding of the paintings. In fact, I think it is in danger of intruding on it.
Add to that the fact that it’s just plain wrong to read someone’s most intimate correspondence. We’ve been here countless times before - volumes of Ernest Hemingway’s letters are rolling out, despite the fact that he left instructions that he didn’t want them published.
Did anyone need to know about Philip Larkin’s bottom fetish, as revealed in his letters to his mistress, or the fits of weeping and sadness which French philosopher, Roland Barthes wrote about in his personal diary?
Unless the writer has stated that such material should be made public posthumously, it should remain private. However, if the Eardley coverage brings her work to a wider audience, that is cheering.
If you’re a fan or new to her paintings, you should visit The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh at the beginning of April for an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of her untimely death - the first since the stunning retrospective at the National Galleries in 2007.
Female artist's love letters to the wife of Scots sheriff
And while you’re circling that on your calendar, make a note of another, very different exhibition, highlighting a fabulous Scotswoman. The House Of Annie Lennox opens at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh this weekend and runs until the end of June, featuring costumes, videos, photographs and many more items from the singer’s extensive archive.
The whole shebang provides a tour through her career from her early days with The Tourists up to the present day. I’m meeting her at the Gallery on Monday for a wheech round the exhibits. A day for the lippy, I think!
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