'Orchidaceae Dendrobium', is a sensitive portrait of an unassuming looking orchid with very fine lines only visible on close inspection. It is painted directly on paper without a wash of colour so as not to detract from its slender shape and discreet colours. It is delicately rendered with an economy of brush strokes and the colours simply flow into each other, up the stem and the leaves and into the flower.
Orchids are some of Elizabeth Blackadder's most enduring botanical subjects. They captivate her not only artistically but also scientifically. Based in Edinburgh, she has been involved with staff at the Royal Botanic Garden on several art projects and this has advanced her knowledge and understanding of these plants.
Flowers are one of the subjects Blackadder is best known for. She paints them after nature in a variety of styles, in still lives with a number of objects from around her home or studio, or on their own in the fashion of botanical plates with their Latin names, and most often on paper in watercolour or aquatint. In her selection of subjects, she is guided by their visual appeal. Some of her most detailed studies of flowers can be found in her still live paintings, among bowls of fruit, cats and interesting object collected during her travels which put together make lively compositions. On the other hand, some of her scientifically styled plates tend towards the lyrical and convey emotions although in a conventional manner as is the case with this orchid. We sense that this is an artist who likes to challenge the viewer's expectations but also who stays true to her intuition.
Born in Falkirk in 1931, she is today one of Britain's most renowned artists and was the first woman to be elected as a member of the Royal Scottish Academy as well as the Royal Academy. She paints in oil and watercolours and has worked with printmakers on a variety of printing techniques. Her sensitivity to her surroundings has inspired many still life paintings, as well as many portraits of her cats, where she captures the paraphernalia around her studio and her domestic interior in compositions tending towards the abstract. The objects featured in her paintings are often those she collected during her many travels in Europe and in the East. The space between objects and their resonance with each other hold a great fascination for her.
Philip Long Elizabeth Blackadder, National Galleries of Scotland, 2011.