EDINBURGH – Women have always been integral to the institution of art but, despite this, many women artists have found opposition in the narrative of art history, facing difficulty in gaining recognition.
Women Modern Masters at Edinburgh’s The Scottish Gallery seeks to look back as well as forward, celebrating major female artists throughout their history. The exhibition revisits some of the great names of the past and others less well known today and most importantly invites many leading current painters to participate.
Over the last hundred years, the exhibition history at The Scottish Gallery has included all major female Scottish artists and many who made contributions in an era when sexism was routine. The art world was no exception to this gender bias and, often, women were regarded as models, mistresses and muses rather than candidates for the Academy.
Christina Jansen, Managing Director of The Scottish Gallery, comments: “The Scottish Gallery’s positivity can be explained, in part, by a commercial pragmatism: for the collector, the gender of the artist is of little concern, the initial reaction to a work of art devoid of the prejudice that led many women writers in the previous century to adopt male noms-de-plume. In the twenties the art colleges were full of aspirant, creative young women understanding the new societal contract after WWI which allowed much more equality – not only in the ballot box. These were heady days, not as yet undermined by the political correctness which today undervalues individual talent in favour of identity politics: if you were good enough The Scottish Gallery would offer you a one woman show, not because it needed to fulfil a quota.”
The exhibition includes works by: Anne Redpath (1895 – 1965), Lily Cottrell (1896 – 1984), Winifred McKenzie (1905 – 2001), Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912 – 2004), Joan Eardley (1921 – 1963), Bet Low (1924 – 2007), Barbara Balmer (1929 – 2017), Mardi Barrie (1930 – 2004), Pat Douthwaite (1934 – 2002), Sylvia Wishart (1936 – 2008), Lil Neilson (1938 – 1998), Elizabeth Blackadder, Victoria Crowe, Kate Downie, Claire Harkess, Angie Lewin, Hannah Mooney, Emily Sutton and Frances Walker.
Artists like Anne Redpath and then Joan Eardley earned their senior positions in Scotland’s artists’ firmament by right and the next generation supped at the top table with their male peers without novelty or a sense of gratitude. When Victoria Crowe first showed with The Scottish Gallery in 1970 it was the appraisal of her commercial potential along with her originality as a painter which made the exhibition so satisfying.
Women Modern Masters strives to emphasise the individual commercial potential of each artist, making no apology in taking an exclusive curatorial position. This exhibition replaces the previously announced exhibition of works by Jock McFadyen which has been postponed. McFadyen’s exhibitions at The Lowry, City Art Centre and the Royal Academy of Arts will still take place in 2020 – 2021.
Women Modern Masters runs from 30th July to 29th August 2020 at The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ. For more information, visit their website here