High Tide, A Winter Afternoon by Joan Eardley




Spoken by Ruth Kent, Performance and Events Officer


Joan Eardley was born in 1921, studied at Glasgow School of Art and had just a fifteen-year career before her early death in 1963. She undertook post-graduate study at Hospitalfield House in Arbroath and began painting the fishermen at the harbour. Known for her powerful, expressive work she was interested in the realities of twentieth-century life. She travelled in France and Italy before establishing a base in Glasgow, where she famously painted the Glasgow tenement children, who frequented her studio. A friend then offered a house from which to paint the Aberdeenshire coastline, perched on the clifftop at the village of Catterline, south of Aberdeen. There is a short film about her time there entitled: Joan Eardley ‘A Sense of Place’ on the national galleries of Scotland website. Joan’s work then became rooted in Catterline, the emotions and feelings created in the work. Which brings us to examine
this painting:

Movement - there’s an immediate feeling of surging, restless movement in this painting. A visceral lashing and tugging of the sea and the wind, churning together at the shore. The focus here is on the sea, its power and energy. We can almost taste the salt and feel the wind whipping at our hair.

Colour - this painting is full of storm colours - slate greys, murky greens and browns dominate with bright splashes of blues and whites in the boats and sea spray. The palate is cool and dark and impenetrable.

Visibility - there’s a lack of visibility - we cannot see where the sea ends and the sky begins; it’s all one, whipped up into sea spray. There’s a kind of chaos and lack of control. The boats are empty and being buffeted around. No bird flies through this storm.

Technique - The artist has used great, sweeping brush strokes and thick, textured paint to express the movement and depth of the storm. It’s very effective - there’s almost a ceaseless movement expressed

The painting is broad and aligns with our vision - what we might see if we looked out to see between the frame of our hands on a stormy day.

There is no shoreline to stand upon. We are almost in the sea as viewers.