Monday, November 15, 2021

Elizabeth Blackadder - Favourite Flowers

If you are interested and have the time I recommend you visit the retrospective exhibition about Elizabeth Blackadder: Favourite Flowers at the Garden Museum. However, there's now less than a week left to see as it closes on 21st November 2021.

Exhibition announcement outside the Gallery at the Garden Museum

One of the highlights for me of every visit to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts was seeing the latest watercolour paintings of flowers by Elizabeth Blackadder RA I was rarely disappointed - until latterly as she became very old and her skills took a dip and maybe her eyesight too. However that's the natural process of ageing....

What's important is to remember them for the reason you became a fan in the first place!

She of course eventually became Dame Elizabeth Blackadder DBE, OBE, RA, RSA - before she died in August this year a month short of her 90th birthday.

Now I've seen the exhibition, I'm going to be writing more about her on my Botanical Art and Artists website (she is in fact going to get a dedicated page!) but for now, this is a quick review of the exhibition.

The exhibition

It's the first exhibition since her death and it's good that it was both intentionally planned as a retrospective and is also about the subject she was most famous for painting - and printing.

You can see all the artworks in the exhibition on The Scottish Gallery website - which also includes a video of the exhibition hung in that galleryI'm also going to include some views of the exhibition in this post - and will post a few more to an album on Facebook. 

The exhibition - as one would rightly expect from the title - focuses on her portrayal of flowers - plus 

  • a few portrayals of Japanese gardens, 
  • some still life paintings with flowers and 
  • one cat - on his own with a lot of grass
  • plus one linocut portrait of Elizabeth Blackadder by her husband the painter/printmaker, John Houston
It's a mix of watercolour paintings, and paintings in oil and watercolour. It's the latter, as always, which are the most impressive. Which might seem an odd thing to say for somebody who is one of the loosest, washiest watercolour painters I know.

Three composite paintings

small very washy feature within the central painting above

Some of the etchings of plants

However she had an unerring eye and talent for capturing the 'look' and habit of a plant. Perhaps because all her paintings were done from life in the studio - using plants brought in from her garden in Edinburgh.

She created plant portraits - but not in the precise botanical way that botanical illustrators do. To my mind she was beyond flower painting and pushing hard on the botanical painting door - but without any of the meticulous measurement of plants parts - because she believed in eyeballing. Nor does she paint using watercolour in the very hyper-realistic way adopted by some botanical artists. Instead, having viewed a number of the artworks painted from life in the field by famous botanical artists, she has a strong sense of the plant in front of her.  The flowers in her paintings behave exactly the same way they do in my sitting room!

Tulips (watercolour) 1981

Moreover some of her watercolour paintings - which are often large and on full sheets of watercolour paper - always remind me of somebody who liked doing studies from life. 

It took me a while when I first started studying her work to realise that a lot of the content in her paintings is the same bloom or stem or plant or fruit - picked up and turned around - repeatedly. Then she starts cutting up the fruit - or painting single blooms or inflorescences in more detail.

Turn and repeat

I was delighted with this idea and many years ago drew some sunflowers in pen and ink - repeatedly, across the page - by picking them up and turning them around. I was even more delighted when the drawing promptly sold!

Suffice to say, I am a big fan of her composite study pages with no obvious rhyme or reason - other than they look good! That's a good enough reason for me.

Of course she also managed to weave her cats into paintings on a few occasions. 

Watercolour paintings by Elizabeth Blackader

It's essentially a selling exhibition - and the original watercolours have mostly sold for several thousand.  However there are still lithographs available for much more reasonable prices....

The Garden Museum receives no public funds. All proceeds from the exhibition help fund the three teachers who teach children about plants, plus provide food to them and the wider community.

It's a great exhibition, I highly recommend a visit - or a review of the online version if you can't get down to Lambeth.

PS I got the last catalogue at the Museum, but you could try ordering online

No comments:

Post a Comment

COMMENTS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED AGAIN due to very silly ignorant people who leave spam comments without realising they have no benefit for them.

Please feel free to comment on my Facebook Page as my blog posts are always posted there (but please note anonymous comments are not published and I block and report spammers to Google and on Facebook)

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.