Edward Baird was one of very few Scottish artists interested in Surrealism, the major European cultural movement which explored dreams and the subconscious. Although Baird was influenced by Italian Renaissance art, his Venus is a thoroughly modern woman. Not only is she slim and very self-assured, but her hair seems unnaturally blonde. In the 1930s, platinum-blonde film stars, such as Jean Harlow, drew huge box-office crowds to the cinemas. In 1932, there was even a film called 'Blonde Venus', starring the famous German actress Marlene Dietrich. Baird referred to his goddess as "a distinctly Scottish Venus". Can you work out why?
This painting is a rare example of Scottish Surrealism. It was painted as a wedding present for the artist James McIntosh Patrick. McIntosh Patrick said of Baird's gift, “It rather shocked me as he painted so few pictures yet he gave this one away. He was our best man and, being a sentimental person, he chose Venus, the goddess of love, as the subject of the painting. He was a keen Scottish Nationalist; he also admired Botticelli and Crivelli, the Renaissance painters. Hence the 'Scottish Venus' as he called it, arose out of his associations with a wedding, his involvement with Scottish Nationalism, his love for messing about in boats, and his love of Botticelli.”
Baird was born in Montrose in 1904 and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1924 to 1927. He became a close friend of James McIntosh Patrick, sharing his painstaking approach to realism. Baird returned to Montrose after graduating and lived there for the rest of his life, painting local subjects and keeping a low profile. Often described as a Scottish Surrealist, Baird is equally known for his association with the Scottish Renaissance movement. His artistic output was relatively small, due to his perfectionism, time-intensive manner of working and his early death at the age of forty-five.