Joan Eardley, R.S.A. (1921-1963)
Joan Eardley, R.S.A. (1921-1963)

The Yellow Jumper

Joan Eardley, R.S.A. (1921-1963)
The Yellow Jumper
numbered 'EE63' (on the reverse)
oil and collage on board
22½ x 22¼ in. (57.1 x 56.5 cm.)
Painted in 1963.
There is a painting of Glasgow Tenements by the same artist on the reverse.
Purchased by the present owner at the 1964 exhibition (£210).
Edinburgh, Aitken Dott, Festival Exhibition, 1964, no. 27.
Glasgow, Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow Art Galleries and Museums Association Show, no. 242, catalogue not traced.

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Lot Essay

Eardley had an immense enthusiasm for the back streets of Glasgow and the children who played there. During the war the terrible blitz on Clydebank in March 1941 had left much of the population homeless. In the post-war rebuilding of Glasgow new areas of housing such as Castlemilk provided hitherto unknown modern facilities for working-class families and Sir Basil Spence's tower blocks in the Gorbals were a brave new world. In the context of this push to modernise Glasgow, Eardley repeatedly returned to the subject of the urban underclass who still lived in the derelict tenements. She was moved by the community spirit of the area. In an interview in the early 1960s, she said, 'the community feeling is rapidly disappearing in Glasgow. I do feel that there is still a little bit left. I try still to paint Glasgow so long as there is this family group quality ... Some of the children ... come up and say, 'will you paint me?' I try to get them to stand still - it's not possible to get a child to stay still. I watch them moving about and do the best I can. They just let out all their life and energy and I just watch them and I do try and think about them in painterly terms, all the bits of red and bits of colour. They are Glasgow - this richness that Glasgow has - I hope it will always have - ... as long as Glasgow has this I'll always want to paint it' (extract form tape recording in the Joan Eardley archive, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art).

The Yellow Jumper belongs to a late group of paintings by Eardley that depict children against the scarlet, graffiti-laden wall of the metal store below her studio at the corner of St James's Road in Townhead, Glasgow (fig. 1). This series combines the visual certainty, which derived from Eardley's constant study of the environment around Glasgow, with a new restless urgency that echoes her struggles to capture the ever-changing weather as seen in her paintings of the small fishing village of Catterline (C. Oliver, Joan Eardley, RSA, Edinburgh, 1988, p. 81). In the present painting two boys, dressed in cast-off clothing, stare directly out at the viewer from the foreground. With arms thrown round each other's shoulders and heads together, the children seem united and a strong sense of kinship pervades the scene. Eardley's warm sympathetic understanding of her subjects is revealed in the sensitive expression of the mood and inter-relationships of her subjects. She unearthed a set of metal stencils and used them with relish in her late paintings. In the current work, above the head of the two children, 'METAL' in large capital letters is emblazoned over a tracery of scrawled words (ibid, p. 81). The crimson ground is studded with a collage of sweet-paper wrappers, foil from cigarette packets and newspaper scraps. The vibrant backdrop enriches her portrait. The children's exuberance shines through the joyful patterns of line and colour on the composition.

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