Story of Scottish artist Joan Eardley to be brought to life

Joan Eardley at work in her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, and two of the artists acclaimed studies of children. Picture: Eardley Estate

Joan Eardley at work in her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, and two of the artists acclaimed studies of children. Picture: Eardley Estate

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The life story of one of Scotland’s greatest artists is to be brought to the stage for the first time, more than half a century after her death.

Joan Eardley: A Private View will be unveiled this weekend at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh after around two years of development of the celebration of the painter.

The first ever script readings will be performed by a three-strong cast ahead of a UK tour of galleries and arts centres which display her work, including Banchory, Montrose and Arbroath.

A full production will be launched at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art next spring to coincide with an exhibition feature a host of previously unseen works by Eardley.

A Glasgow School of Art graduate, she is best known for depicting children playing in the street in the Townhead area of the city, near where she had a studio, and for her landscapes of the north-east village of Catterline.

Some of those depicted in the famous Glasgow paintings have helped in the development of the play, along with art experts, biographers and some of her closest associates.

The two theatre companies behind the play – Heroica and Stellar Quines – say it will chart “a life of joys and frustrations, friendships and solitary stretches, disillusionments and disappointments – as well as passions and triumphs”.

This weekend’s performances will be staged three years after a new biography of Eardley lifted the lid on her long-time relationship with married photographer Audrey Walker.

Anna Carlisle, writer of the play, which will tackle her “rich and complex” private life, said the original inspiration had come from an exhibition of her work in Edinburgh, in 2007.

She added: “The show has really come about out of a persistent admiration for this extraordinary woman and her body of work that all looks as if it has been painted yesterday.

“There’s an extraordinary back-story, which more than anything else tells of love and loyalty and people staying with her until the very end of her life. It’s almost as if she has guided the script herself.

“We don’t want to intrude far into her personal life. But we reserve the right to have our own perspective.

“If we don’t allow the drama to speak then there won’t be the authenticity that people require. She is one of the greatest British painters of the 20th century. Her story needs to be told so more people become aware of her.”

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