There are some artists whose work makes people fall in love the minute they discover them. The painter Joan Eardley, born on a farm in Sussex one hundred years ago this week to a Scottish mother and an English father, falls into this category. Eardley's star burned brightly from her days at the Glasgow School of Art in the early years of World War Two, up until her early death aged 42 in 1963. When she died, she had recently been elected by her peers as an Academican of the Royal Scottish Academy; a peer-led honour which at that point few women had been awarded.

I am one of a growing army of fans. Ever since seeing a huge retrospective of Eardley's work mounted by the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh in 2007, I've been drawn to Eardley and her work.

Although she is possibly best known for her depictions of gallus squinty-eyed Glasgow street kids holding hands, eating pieces or reading comics, the paintings which drew me in at that exhibition were Eardley's big expressive seascapes. Created in oils on hardboard using big brushes, grasses and splashes of rain and seawater scumbled into the surface, these paintings were made in her second home of Catterline; a clifftop village which clings to Scotland's rugged north east coast.

I vividly remember the feeling I had when I stood in front of paintings like The Wave and Seascape (Foam and Blue Sky). It was as if they possessed an energy all of their own; the mark-making was so intense, it almost vibrated. Later, when I saw a short film of Eardley at work, what struck me most was the physical energy with which she applied paint. Almost as though she was attacking the canvas.

Eardley's life was cut short in August 1963 by the aggressive spread of cancer which started in her breast and spread to her brain. In the years leading up to her death, she was firing on all cylinders, almost as though she sensed that time was running out.

Now, almost 60 years later, the life, the legacy of Joan Eardley is being celebrated under the banner Eardley 100. Featuring physical and online exhibitions, as well as digital talks and discussions, the artist's family commissioned an official website and associated social media, on which all aspects of this hive-like centenary celebration can be viewed, booked or enjoyed in retrospect.

Again, I must declare an interest. I've helped to create this website by writing a biography of Eardley's life, co-curating the content alongside artist and website designer, Lynne Mackenzie.

A key driver in Eardley 100 has been the rise and rise of the Scottish Women in the Arts Research Network (SWARN). Established in 2018 and spearheaded by Patricia de Montfort of Glasgow University's School of Culture and Creative Arts, SWARN has grown to include professionals across museums, archives, galleries, educational institutions, and heritage organisations across the UK.

Committed to enhancing the visibility of women makers in the fine arts, design, craft and architecture in public collections, Eardley 100 is SWARN's first group project. During the course of the last year, as online gatherings became the norm, SWARN's star has been in the ascendent, with every meeting welcoming new members.

On what would have been Eardley's 100th birthday last Tuesday, Glasgow University's Hunterian Gallery organised a webinar chaired by BBC Scotland's arts correspondent, Pauline Mclean, featuring contributions from the artist's niece, Anne Morrison, Glasgow University, Glasgow Museums, Paisley Museum, the National Galleries of Scotland and auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull. It will soon be available to view online on both the Joan Eardley and SWARN websites.

Eardley was recognised as a huge talent during her lifetime, with a dealer in Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery, and a high-end London gallery in Roland, Browse and Delbanco. As a result, her work was bought by the likes of the Government Art Collection (a late Eardley seascape hangs in the High Commission, Canberra, Australia), BBC Scotland, Birmingham Museums, the Arts Council Collection, the National Galleries of Scotland and Glasgow Museums. The Tate has one Eardley; purchased after her death from Cyril Gerber in Glasgow, also a staunch champion of her work.

Joan Eardley was that rarest creatures; an original artist of infinite artistic talent who pursued her own agenda; drawing and painted what she observed around her and what interested her. Much of the discussion around her work this year has focused on what she might have gone on to do had she lived into middle age and beyond. We can only speculate. She was something else.

The centenary of the birth of Joan Eardley is being marked throughout 2021 by physical and digital exhibitions across Scotland as well as talks and symposiums online. For more information see &

Where to see Eardley work now:

Joan Eardley & Catterline, Edinburgh

This small two-room exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern art (Modern One) in Edinburgh is a prime example of more being less. Featuring nine oil paintings, 13 works on paper, and a selection of photographs and archival materials, it also includes some of Eardley’s most famous paintings, such as Catterline in Winter (1963), Summer Fields (1961) and Snow (1958). Maps of Catterline, marked with the locations where the artist stood to draw and paint her subjects are presented in the galleries, allowing visitors to trace her movements.

Joan Eardley & Catterline, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), 75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR, Admission free, but booking required. Open now ((closing date to be confirmed).

Joan Eardley: A Centenary Exhibition, Milngavie

Milngavie's Lillie Art Gallery’s first exhibition of 2021 opened last week on Joan Eardley’s birthday, with a display of her drawings from its permanent collection. Eardley's family lived locally and gifted a raft of artworks to the Lillie. The star of the show is Eardley's ever-popular painting Flood Tide although the pastel on glass paper drawing, Girl with Pink Hat, comes a close second. There is also a small selection of work by associated artists, including ceramic sculpture on loan from Eardley's artist niece, Anne Morrison.

Joan Eardley: A Centenary Exhibition from the Lillie, Lillie Art Gallery, Station Road, Milngavie, G62 8BZ, Until August 21.

Joan Eardley: A Painter’s Life with Photographs by Audrey Walker, Dumfries

Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries is showing a selection of Eardley paintings, pastels and sketches from its collection, alongside black and white photographs by the artist’s friend and photographer, Audrey Walker. Audrey often documented Joan at work at the Walker’s holiday cottage in the Ettrick Valley in the Borders, at Joan’s Glasgow studio, and in Catterline. Audrey, who lived in Dumfries, bequeathed a number of Eardley artworks to the Gracefield Collection. Her photographic archive was gifted by her son John in December 2004.

Joan Eardley: A Painter’s Life with Photographs by Audrey Walker, Gracefield Arts Centre, 28 Edinburgh Road, Dumfries, DG1 1JQ. Until July 3.

Joan Eardley – Works on Paper, Aberdeen

A small selection of works by Eardley is now on display in Aberdeen Art Gallery. This is complemented by an online exhibition of drawings and works on paper, which came into the collection in Aberdeen as a gift from the artist’s sister, Pat Black, in 1987. One of the joys of being in the gallery is pulling out drawers to be greeted by the likes of Eardley's pastel drawing, Child with Red Doll. There's also a beautiful Eardley oil painting, Setting Sun Over Fields, on show next to a pastel drawing by her friend Angus Neil, called Joan Eardley Sketching (Looking North).

Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums, Schoolhill, Aberdeen, AB10 1FQ. Selection of work now in gallery and online

Critic's Choice

If ever an exhibition was well-named, it is Narratives in Times of Absurdity. This new show at the RGI Kelly Gallery in Glasgow comes from Norman Sutton-Hibbert, who spent more than 30 years working as a social worker and mental health officer before attending the Glasgow School of Art from 2010 to 2015.

Throughout his time working in social care and while bringing up a young family, Sutton-Hibbert always made time for art. He began exhibiting in the early 1970’s and was involved in a group show early on in Nuremberg, Germany.

For many years, Sutton-Hibbert has had an interest in using fabric and other found items in his work. Much of this fabric is from personal clothing, or functional household items – which he believes bring with them the DNA, or history of the person who wore or lived with them.

The same can be said of other material such as collage or familiar objects. As a lifelong student of history, he has always been inclined to draw on the experiences of others, as well as his own, in times during which circumstances are beyond our control.

Be these circumstances good, bad or just plain absurd, they impact on our lives in a wide variety of ways. It is these narratives Sutton-Hibbert chooses to represent in his artwork.

In soft sculptures such as Speech is Not the Only Lanuage, which depicts pistols covered by recycled textiles rounded off by a keyring, and The Makers, which presents scissors rendered unusable by being bound up by thread, he turns to the language of Dadasim to question on absurdity with another.

Narratives in Times of Absurdity by Norman Sutton-Hibbert, RGI Kelly Gallery, 118 Douglas Street, Glasgow, G2 4ET, 0141 258 1080,, Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. Until June 5. By appointment.

Don't Miss

Turner Prize shortlisted Jim Lambie's Buttercup presents a mesmerising site inside The Modern Institute's space at Aird's Lane in Glasgow. Some 22 years after his Zopop floor installation made its Glasgow debut, this iteration shimmers in varying hues of yellows, interspersed with chrome and black and white vinyl tape. Zopop provides a plinth of sorts for other interventions such as Pink Moon (a bent pink door leaning against a wall) and the puzzle that is Horizon (Goldfinch).

Jim Lambie: Buttercup, The Modern Institute, 3 Aird's Lane, Glasgow, G1 5HU, 0141 237 1488,, Ends today (Saturday May 22).