November 2017 marked an important step for the Picture Department, the opening of 350 Years of British Art, a loan exhibition at Tennants curated by head of department, Charlotte Conboy.
With the support of both private clients and museums in the North East who so generously loaned their paintings and sculpture, it was possible to bring together an extraordinary group of works charting the development of British Art from the 17th century to the present day. From a sweet portrayal of an infant in a portrait by George Romney, to John Frederick Herring Senior’s 19th century masterpiece ‘Barnet Fair’ and a starkly painted street scene by L.S. Lowry, the exhibits offered an insight into the extraordinary breadth of art produced on our shores.
The exhibition was opened with two private views attended by over 120 guests, and the following days of public viewing were fully booked throughout. Visitors commented on what a pleasure it was to see such great works of art brought together in the Dales, and to see pieces that had never before been on public display. Works by household names such as Thomas Gainsborough and Henry Moore rubbed shoulders with examples by less well known but equally talented artists, and the juxtaposition of such a breadth of artistic styles provoked thought and discussion amongst visitors.
The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, in which Jane Whittaker, Head of Collections at The Bowes Museum, wrote “This exhibition is another reason to share what Tennants is really all about, the sheer enjoyment of art and creativity in all their varied forms and expressions”.
One of the highlights of the exhibition 350 Years of British Art will be included in the Spring Fine Art Sale on 17th March 2018. ‘Girl with a Poke of Chips’ - a striking mixed media painting by one of Scotland’s most popular 20th century artists, Joan Kathleen Eardley (1921-1963) - will be offered with an estimate of £20,000-30,000. Eardley is known for her powerful, expressive paintings of the grit-ty, the elemental, and the dilapidated in post-war Scotland. Capturing contrasting sides of life, Eardley had two overriding areas of interest which produced her greatest works – the ragged children in Glasgow’s poverty stricken tenements, and the vast skies and roiling seas around the declining fishing village of Catterline, south of Aberdeen.
Born in Sussex in 1921, Eardley’s family moved from London to Glasgow shortly after the outbreak of World War II in 1939, where Joan enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art. Inspired by the likes of Stanley Spencer, Eardley focused on the realities of life in the 20th century and the humanity of her humble subjects; indeed, on an extended study trip to Italy it was the peasants, the children, and the beggars that caught her eye and became the subjects of an exhibition on her return. It was on this Italian sojourn that Eard-ley was also exposed to the work of Giotto, whose use of dramatic narrative and vivid primary colours – especially blue – were re-peated in herwork throughout her life.
Paintings and drawings of Glasgow’s street children spanned her career, right up until her premature death at the age of 42. Eardley was one of a generation of artists to whom urban childhood was a source of fascination – but the naturalistic poses of her sitters, their confident and direct gazes and the warmth of portrayal, point to the comfortable relationship she had with these children. In ‘Girl with a Poke of Chips’, against a grey, graffiti-strewn background, our sitter wears a vivid Giottesque blue contrasted with red; momentarily her attention has been drawn from her chips to look at us. Thepainting was included in the 1975 Scottish Arts Council Exhibition, before being exhibited with Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, where it was purchased in 1963.