Elizabeth Blackadder

Born 1931 Falkirk, Scotland

Died 2021 Edinburgh, Scotland

Biography

Elizabeth Blackadder is best known for her still life paintings of flowers, cats, and Japanese gardens. Her career of over six decades began at Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art (1949–54). Alongside painting, her practice incorporated a variety of media, including lithography, etching, aquatint, and screenprint. Blackadder rose to prominence in the 1960s for her detailed paintings of flowers, usually painted against a simple background. Botany was a significant interest of the artist throughout her life. She spent much of her childhood collecting and meticulously classifying flora. Her carefully-balanced still life paintings – often imagined compositions featuring real-life objects – reflect her desire to master space and proportion within the genre. By the 1970s, travel abroad increasingly inspired her paintings, with Japanese influences particularly prominent from the 1980s. Blackadder was the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Academy (1976) and the Royal Scottish Academy (1972). She taught at Edinburgh College of Art from 1962 until retirement in 1986.

 

Artwork Information

Fifeshire Farm (1960) speaks to Elizabeth Blackadder’s fascination with nature that began during childhood. The wild and wind-beaten trees relate to the artist’s dislike of ‘effete’ garden flowers, and subsequent preference for a ‘laissez-faire’ gardening style, with resultant neo-Romantic landscapes a frequent subject of her work.

Blackadder first experimented with printmaking whilst studying at Edinburgh in the early 1950s. She proceeded to produce various lithographs in the 1960s with the Curwen Studio, during a period of renewed interest in the medium. This particular print was made in the same year as Italian Landscape (1960) – a lithograph that shares the restrained colour palette and depiction of harsh-black trees. Recipient of a travel scholarship, Blackadder created these prints following nine months in Italy, beginning from summer 1955. The bare winter trees of Tuscany appealed to the artist, and this continued interest is apparent in Fifeshire Farm. Similar forms are transposed to depict the harsh shrubbery of Fifeshire (or Fife), an area of eastern Scotland and birthplace of her husband and travel partner, John Houston.