Elizabeth Blackadder: Art world mourns death of Scottish great

The Scottish art world is in mourning after the death of one of the country’s best loved artists.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 9:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 9:17 pm

Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, who was celebrated for her exquisite flower painting, died at her home in Edinburgh on Monday at the age of 89, just a month short of her 90th birthday.

The news of her death was announced on social media by the Scottish Gallery.

Guy Peploe, a director at the gallery, said: “Elizabeth was without question one of our greatest artists, as well known in London as Scotland.

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Acclaimed Scottish artist Dame Elizabeth Blackadder has died at the age of 89, just a month short of her 90th birthday

“She was very important to the gallery with an exhibition history of over 60 years and will be hugely missed by all who know her.”

The post sparked an outpouring of sadness and tributes from people who knew her and those who were inspired by her work.

Susan Mansfield, art critic for The Scotsman, hailed Blackadder as “one of Scotland’s finest” contemporary artists.

“She was an artist of outstanding skill, which she deployed to great effect across a wide range of techniques and subject matter,” she said.

Elizabeth Blackadder's painting Spring Bulbs - False Palm

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“Her oil painting studio was a colourful kaleidoscope of objects she would arrange in order to paint them, and if one of her cats happened to wander in and lie down it might be painted too.

“She once told me that she had never cooked a butternut squash – she liked to paint them, but they always went bad before she had a chance to find out what they tasted like.

“For Elizabeth, the important thing was not success or popularity or even recognition, it was the next painting, and then the one after that.

Elizabeth Blackadder was particularly famed for her exquisite and finely detailed paintings of flowers - such as her Purple Irises

“Always quiet and unassuming, she let her work do the talking. It will speak for her now.”

Born in Falkirk in 1931, Blackadder studied at Edinburgh University and at Edinburgh College of Art.

She went on to become the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy.

Her detailed work was both acclaimed and popular, with her flower paintings and characterful drawings of cats widely reproduced on cards and merchandise.

As well as forging a successful career as a painter and printmaker, she taught at her alma mater, Edinburgh College of Art, from 1962 until her retirement in 1986.

Her work, which has fetched up to £35,000, ranges through still life, landscape and portraits to studies of animals, particularly cats, and flowers.

She was married to fellow artist John Houston, from Fife, from 1956 until his death in 2008.

Her work can be seen at the Tate Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and has appeared on a series of Royal Mail stamps.

On Instagram, artist Anne Russell wrote: “I had the good fortune of working with this lovely lady on one of her many cat etchings – as an artist, we can only hope to aspire to such dedication and sincerity as Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.”

Farrall Jones added: “Her cats and flowers were wonderfully observed. A great age to have reached and some great work to have left behind.”

Her funeral will be private but the family has announced plans to hold a celebration of her life at a later date.

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