Dame Elizabeth Violet Blackadder is one of Scotland’s most renowned artists, creating captivating floral watercolours, prints and oil paintings as well as instantly recognisable still life works. Born in Falkirk, Blackadder’s fascination with flowers started in her youth when she collected local flowers, pressing and labelling them with their Latin names. Her botanic fascination continued throughout her life and influenced her career to this day with admirers including the Royal Household. Her work varies from technical floral watercolours to abstract landscapes – often using lithograph prints. Her work is recognisable for the life she breathes into the mindful but loose brushstrokes, colourful flower heads held up by the thinnest stems, and a feeling of nostalgia.
Throughout her life, Elizabeth Blackadder took influence from her travels, in the 1950s visiting Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy, in the 1960s France Spain and Portugal, and Japan in the 1980s. She produced vibrant and abstract works from these trips with echoes of her other enduring influence, her Edinburgh tutor, William Gilles.
Considering the spaces between objects as well as the objects themselves, there is a spatial harmony within her works, of suspension and groundedness, in part due to her Japanese influences. Blackadder has a sensitivity when it comes to observing and painting everyday life, picking out the patterns in nature and overlaying different elements into a single composition. Her pet cats are often featured amongst the flower vases and add a wonderful, personal touch.
Elizabeth Blackadder is one of the most highly decorated contemporary artists, being a member of both the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Scottish Royal Academy, being awarded an OBE and DBE, appointed as Her Majesty’s Painter and Limner in Scotland and being awarded honorary doctorates from four universities. This is no surprise however, as Blackadder not only produced enchanting floral works and bold landscapes but inspired the next generation of artists, teaching at the Edinburgh College of Art and the Glasgow Print Studio.
Despite her many accolades, Blackadder’s works are not intimidating, but enigmatic, enchanting and welcoming. She is a household name for exactly that reason, and she holds a great and growing legacy. Leyden is proud to hold four wonderful Blackadder works in its collection, including the newly acquired lithograph Paris Still Life.