Elizabeth Blackadder

Elizabeth Blackadder                               b 1931 Falkirk

Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, DBE, RA, RSA, studied for a master’s degree (1949-1954) on the influential joint degree programme established at University of Edinburgh / Edinburgh College of Art by Professor David Talbot Rice. This programme balanced academic study of art history with hands on studio learning – a depth of art education which sustained her development both as an artist and her career as tutor at Edinburgh College of Art (1962-1986). The first woman to be elected as Academician to both the RSA and the RA, Elizabeth has exhibited widely and has works represented in most major UK public collections including National Galleries Scotland, Tate and V&A Museum. She was subject of an important retrospective at National Galleries Scotland in 2011.

As John Leighton commented in the 2011 catalogue: ‘from its earliest stages her work has been underpinned by superb draughtsmanship’. Perhaps most familiar to many are her botanical studies – an interest fostered during a wartime childhood in Argyll – and in 1979 she organised a major exhibition of botanical art for the Scottish Arts Council’s then Travelling Gallery. It would have been possible to represent her here with a botanical study or indeed with one of her many drawings and prints that exist of
cats, buildings and landscapes, culled from her extensive travels, particularly in Italy and Japan. However the decision to include a relatively rare portrait sketch of her late husband John Houston, dating from around the time of their marriage in 1956, was prompted by the understanding of the importance of this relationship to her life and a sense, articulated by others, of the essentially private and personal nature of her art. This portrait is shown alongside a 1972 working drawing of View from North Bridge (Edinburgh), from the City Art Centre collection, originally intended as the template for an unrealised print project. The drawing gives unusual insight into the artist’s working method, as well as touching on her important career as a printmaker from early lithographs realised with Harley Brothers to delicate etchings realised with Glasgow Print Studio.

(Text by Amanda Game for Lines from Scotland exhibition)