“Successfully re-writes the story of modern Scottish art….”
This revelatory exhibition of work by Scottish women artists concentrates on painters and sculptors. It covers the period from 1885, when Fra Newbery became Director of Glasgow School of Art, until 1965, the year of Anne Redpath’s death. The eighty years which lay between these events saw an unprecedented number of Scottish women train and practise as artists.
In 1885 Sir William Fettes Douglas, President of the Royal Scottish Academy, declared that the work of a woman artist was ‘like a man’s only weaker and poorer.’ In the same year, Fra Newbery was appointed Director of the Glasgow School of Art and did much in terms of gender equality amongst his staff and pupils. Between then and the death in 1965 of Anne Redpath, the doyenne of post-World War Two Scottish painting, an unprecedented number of Scottish women trained and practised as artists; this exhibition focuses on paintings and sculptures made by forty-five of them.
Modern Scottish Women is accompanied by a lavishly-illustrated book based on new research, as well as a free permanent collection display of prints by Wilhlemina Barns-Graham, selected from a recent gift of her work by The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust.
Exhibition supported by The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Charitable Trust and a sorority of women across Scotland.
Image: Dorothy Johnstone, Anne Finlay, 1920,
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections
© Courtesy of Dr DA Sutherland and Lady JE Sutherland
Modern Scottish Women: The Female Gaze
Before the nineteenth century, women were excluded from most forms of artistic training. The Glasgow School of Art was founded in 1845 and Edinburgh College of Art was founded in 1908. Some Scottish women artists travelled to Paris where the training available was more progressive than at home, not least in permitting women to the Life Class, where models of both sexes posed in the nude to allow the study of the human figure. The first society in Scotland devoted specifically to the professional status of women artists was the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists, founded in 1882, whilst the Edinburgh Ladies’ Art Club was formed in 1889.
World War One created opportunities for artists; Dorothy Johnstone was appointed to the staff of Edinburgh College of Art due to the mobilisation of male staff for war service. She remained in the post until 1924 when she married and had to resign due to the ‘Marriage Bar’, which prevented married women from holding full-time teaching positions. After the war, female sculptors, including Gertrude Alice Meredith Williams, were involved in the Scottish National War Memorial which opened in 1927. Three years earlier, the Society of Scottish Women Artists had been established in Edinburgh.
Modern Scottish Women: Teaching
Official recognition of Scottish women artists grew during the 1930s; in 1933 Dorothy Carleton Smyth was appointed the first female Director of the Glasgow School of Art, but died before she was able to take up the post, whilst in 1944 Phyllis Mary Bone was the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Scottish Academy. Following the outbreak of World War Two, Doris Zinkeisen and Cathleen Mann worked as war artists and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham joined Margaret Mellis in Cornwall, where they began a journey into abstraction.
In 1952, Anne Redpath was the first female painter to be elected an Academician of the Royal Scottish Academy. After 1954, Joan Eardley spent increasing amounts of time in the Scottish coastal village of Catterline, which inspired her celebrated land- and seascapes. Ann Henderson embarked on a distinguished career as sculptor and teacher, whilst Hannah Frank turned to sculpture at the age of forty-four, having established a reputation as a draughtswoman; meanwhile Pat Douthwaite and Bet Low began to make their mark.
Anne Redpath died in 1965. The opening of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1960 and the creation of the Scottish Arts Council in 1967 signalled a new era in state funding and support for contemporary art in Scotland. By the late 1960s, a new generation of Scottish women artists, including Elizabeth Blackadder and Frances Walker were coming to the fore. They trained in and are practising in an art world greatly changed from that in which Fra Newbery began to operate in 1885.