Born in Sussex in 1921, Joan Eardley studied briefly at Goldsmiths' College, London (1938 - 1939), and then at the Glasgow School of Art (1940 - 1943). She was deeply affected by the life and atmosphere of the slums of the city. For her subject-matter she concentrated on street life, young children and the elderly, blending realism and compassion but without sentimentality.
In 1951 she discovered the small fishing village of Catterline on the east coast of Scotland, was captivated by the place and moved there. She often worked outdoors, painting marine and landscape scenes in many different moods, sometimes incorporating real pieces of grass in the paint.
Among some of her finest and most powerful works are fierce and bold evocations of the wind and the weather. She was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1955 and a full Academician in 1963.