It’s ages since we had a proper day out in Edinburgh – we missed the Festival entirely this year – so, after arranging to meet our friend Jim there for dinner on Saturday, we decided to go over early and visit a couple of exhibitions. First of all, we walked through Princes Street Gardens, though we didn’t stop at the Christmas funfair, shown above in front of the Scott Monument. It looks even better lit up at night – one year we went up on that ferris wheel and enjoyed the views, but this time we ended up at the wrong end of town for that after dark. (In the day time, you can also get great views by climbing the monument itself.)
Before tackling the exhibitions, we decided to have lunch in the Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at the Princes Street Gardens entrance of the Scottish National Gallery. It was really busy, and rightly so, because the food was very tasty. From there, we went straight to the first exhibition we wanted to see, Elizabeth Blackadder. This is only on till 2nd January so I advise rushing along if you haven’t already seen it. I love her work and was most familiar with her flower paintings – we have a print of tulips at home which we bought one year as a joint birthday present to each other. I also like the still lives and cat pictures. There’s one which combines both by showing the cat stalking out of one side of the picture so that you only see its back end, which illustrates everything I know of cat-nature. However, I had never seen the ink drawings from the 50s and was particularly taken with those of views I recognised – Siena, from a travelling scholarship she won, and Hadrian’s Wall. Although not captioned as such, I think this showed Steel Rigg – a place I have walked many times – and I wish there had been a postcard or print of this in the shop. We also enjoyed the two short films at the end, showing Elizabeth Blackadder still at work today in her 80s. She came across as a delightful person.
Next, we set off for the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. The weather was foul, so we went the direct route rather than taking the very pleasant walk along the Water of Leith and through Dean Village. The exhibition on Scottish Colourist, FCB Cadell is on in Modern 2, formerly known as the Dean Gallery, until March. It’s one of a series over the next two years with Peploe to follow in 2012 and Fergusson in 2013. I don’t know if they just haven’t got round to planning one on Hunter yet or if they are missing him out entirely. As with Blackadder, I knew and liked this artist but had never seen many of the paintings – this is apparently the first public exhibition dedicated solely to him since 1942. For example, I have seen some of his Iona pictures individually, but it was much better seeing a whole room of them together. I hadn’t realised either quite how many ladies wearing black hats he had painted – but my favourite is still Glasgow’s own with the lady sitting in front of an orange blind. This might not be the intended purpose of art, but I have an orange blind in my kitchen mainly because of this picture! Finally, it was instructive to see how his style developed over the years, e.g. from the more impressionistic pre-first world war interiors to the later, brighter and flatter Art-Deco inspired ones. Throughout, his use of reflection remained equally masterful.
Accompanying this exhibition were two smaller ones showing work from contemporary artists, both the other Colourists and some of those working in completely different styles. We also liked the installation in the grounds, seen below when we went in around 3.30pm and when we emerged in darkness just before 5. I think there were plenty of miracles in the gallery myself!
After a little light shopping and a couple of beers, we rounded off our day with our friend in Spirit of Thai, just beside the Usher Hall. It was great, and so, full of good cheer, we headed off for the train back to Glasgow. Next time we’ll have to visit the refurbishments at the Portrait Gallery and the National Museum. Can’t wait.