Venice and tulips: Elizabeth Blackadder paintings are exhibited in Falkirk and Stirling

By Jenni Davidson | 15 November 2011
An oil painting of a church in Venice seen through a window and a table with vases and a bowl of fruit.
Venice Window, Elizabeth Blackadder© The artist
Exhibition: Journeys from Home, The Park Gallery, Falkirk, until February 25 2012

Falkirk and Stirling are celebrating the local connection of one of Scotland’s greatest living painters, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, with two sister exhibitions in honour of her 80th birthday.

The exhibitions will display a range of Blackadder's watercolours, oils and drawings, with each show focussing on different aspects of her life and influences.

Journeys from Home, at The Park Gallery in Falkir,k considers her early life and the development of her distinctive style and subject matter.

Journeys Together, at the Pathfoot Building in the University of Stirling, is running simultaneously and looks at the artistic relationship between Blackadder and her late husband, the landscape painter John Houston.

Elizabeth Blackadder was born in Falkirk in 1931 and went on to study at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh. She followed this with a scholarship in Italy in the 1950s.

She is well known for her still lives and botanical painting, working in a range of styles and media. Her still lives are dramatic compositions - some with conventional perspective, others are more flat abstract arrangements of colour - and her botanical watercolours are often lifelike in their closely-observed detail.

Blackadder's subject matter is often related to home: her cats, plates, ornaments and teapots, as well as flowers she has grown in her own garden.

However, travel and foreign influence are also very significant in her work. She studied Byzantine art at university and, as well as the early trip to Italy, a country she visited again and again, she travelled extensively in France and Japan. She was also influenced by American abstract painters.

Houston and Blackadder travelled together and supported each other's work, but they retained their own styles and responses to what they saw. Blackadder often depicted the flora and fauna, while Houston created expressionist landscapes and seascapes.

Elizabeth Blackadder's early works were subdued in colour, but they become increasingly colourful, possibly under the influence of her visits to the Mediterranean.

"Her paintings are the sum of her experiences and it may not be too literal to identify the progression in colour key in the pictures here with her travels," says Annabel Macmillan, the curator of the shows.

"The sombre tones of her earlier works give way to a hotter key and are infused with the intensity of Mediterranean warmth and light."

  • Park Gallery open 10am-5pm (except Sunday). Pathfoot Building open 9am-8pm (11am-3pm Saturday-Sunday). Admission free to both exhibitions.
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