An early painting by Scottish artist Joan Eardley titled The Mixer Men (1944) valued at £30,000 will be sold at auction by Lyon & Turnbull
on 30th May 2013. The significant and rare example of the artists student-era artwork was well received by critics at the time, the work was praised for its personality and freshness. It has since been referenced by all of Eardleys biographers and was included in her 2009 retrospective at the National Gallery of Scotland, being perceived as a seminal painting in her stylistic development in terms of colour, line, composition and subject matter. Nick Curnow Managing Director and Paintings Specialist at Lyon & Turnbull said This painting represents the rare opportunity to purchase what is widely viewed as a landmark work.
The picture was exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute for Fine Art in 1944, being hung in prime position on the line of the viewers gaze; a great achievement for a recent graduate. Curnow continued Enrolling at the Glasgow School of Art in 1940, Eardley studied for a diploma in drawing and painting until 1943; her talents recognized even at this early stage. A review of her end of year show in 1940 noted that her work had a fine robust confidence. Interestingly these same adjectives could comfortably be applied to her mature work, making it apparent that her distinctive aesthetic took shape early on.
Government legislation during the inter-war years demanded that Eardley and her fellow students take up a profession. Like many of her contemporaries, Eardley signed up for teacher training at Jordanhill, only to quickly conclude after one term that it wasnt a profession suited either to her temperament or her incessant compulsion to paint. To avoid being called up she took on a job as a joiners labourer. It was around this period that her experiences of the world immediately around her became the focus of her work.
The Mixer Men is likely to depict her fellow labourers at the joinery. Its clashing yellow and blue Fauvist palette and earthy subject matter has led critics to detect the influence of Van Goghs and his early homages to the working man. The heavy limbs and spatial sense of bulk are directly inspired by the work of both Josef Herman and Henry Moore, whom Eardley also highly regarded. Here we see the embryonic development of the same slightly cartoonish proportions that would characterise her later work, an element of realism rooted in its cleverly articulated sense of movement the weight of the barrow telling in the sagging set of the shoulders and the firm plant of the feet.