This year, Dovecot Studios is celebrating the works of Scottish women artists across 250 years. The exhibition highlights key women artists who have challenged and shaped the Scottish art scene and changed society's view over the centuries of what women should and could do.
As the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy in London, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder (1931-2021) was a trailblazer in the British art world. This incredible achievement paved the way for other women artists to gain recognition and credibility in these esteemed institutions. She was also made a dame in 2003 and appointed Her Majesty's painter and limner in Scotland in 2001.
Blackadder was a highly esteemed Scottish artist known for her skills in various mediums, particularly watercolours, paintings and drawings. She was well known for her delicate botanical paintings of flowers, landscapes and still-life subjects, demonstrating her mastery of colour, form and composition. In 1962 Blackadder began teaching at Edinburgh College of Art, where she had previously studied, until her retirement in 1986.
Blackadder travelled widely across Europe, and objects featured in her paintings are often those she collected during her many travels in Europe and the East, particularly in Japan.
Weaving of Red Still Life - Dragon Fruit and Oysters (2023)
Working with Dovecot Studios
Dovecot Studios (then Edinburgh Tapestry Company) began working with Elizabeth Blackadder in 1966 by creating a tapestry of her work titled Still Life (Tulips), shortly after the studio hired its first woman weaver. Dovecot has since completed 5 rugs and 31 handwoven tapestries in collaboration with Blackadder, spanning over five centuries, building and creating a strong relationship. The relationship was both productive and successful due to Blackadder's level of freedom she offered the Dovecot weavers when interpreting her designs. She trusted the weavers enough to remain open to small edits and adjustments when producing the tapestries.
Blackadder's vivid use of colour and space between objects allowed the Dovecot weavers to explore different weaving techniques and skills to interpret the flattened perspectives, large fields of colour and delicate brushwork.
Examples of works created by Dovecot in collaboration with Blackadders include Eastern Still Life (1980), Cats at Play (1995) and more recently, Flowers and Black Cat (2023) and Red Still Life – Dragon Fruit and Oysters (2023).
Flowers and Black Cat (2023) - Elizabeth Blackadder, Dovecot Studios
There are three Blackadder works featured in Scottish Women Artists, Irises (1987) - a large handwoven tapestry based on one of her watercolours – Still Life with Japanese Kite (1980) – a watercolour of arranged souvenirs collected on her many travels – and Flowers on a Red Table (1969) – an oil painting that plays with perspective.
The Scottish Women Artists: 250 Years of Challenging Perception exhibition is open until 6th January 2024, 10am – 5pm. Book your tickets!