Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow: Linda McCartney, Retrospective

Mary, Paul and Heather, Scotland, 1970

 

Until Jan 12

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the first gallery in the UK to host Linda McCartney Retrospective, following exhibitions in Vienna, Montpellier and Seoul. Linda McCartney was all about family and this is celebrated throughout the exhibition, curated by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney. The unique qualities of McCartney’s portraiture are evident from the early days, maturing into a body of work that is infused with her subtle and touching powers of observation and fuelled by her passion for animals, family, friends and Scotland.

Already an award-winning photographer before she met and married Paul, we follow McCartney from the early days of success with hip portraits of rising stars of the music scene of the mid to late-1960s, through to experimental work, dynamic family and travel portraits.

There is no particular order to navigating the several rooms and spaces once beyond the introductory section of self-portraits, portraits taken by others and McCartney’s own diary entries. You can walk around the loosely sectioned space as you feel without following a clear linear path. Dip in and out, back and forth and enjoy how each section forms part of a whole. You will certainly go back and review some of your favourites.

 

Linda McCartney taken by Eric Clapton, 1967
Linda McCartney taken by Eric Clapton, 1967 © Paul McCartney / Photographer: Linda McCartney

 

Gain insights into McCartney’s creative and compositional skills with a display of her cameras, experiments with cyanotypes, sun prints contact sheets and colour polaroid transfers. Other sections show her exceptional portraiture skills, travel photos and touching portraits of famous friends. There is also a sizeable section on Scotland, a place that she adored, explicitly in her diaries and quotes but which also comes through in the photography – idyllic family scenes, animals and local residents near the family home in Campbeltown:

“The light in Scotland is the best light in the world for me. The incredible beauty in old rocks and moss. The sky, the changes in weather. It’s good. Good enough for me.”

 

Some photo prints are also blown up to larger-than-life size transfers on the gallery walls, framed by doorways as you go past. Seen from a distance they bring the whole exhibition together and mark your journey around the space.

The largest section is a room dedicated to the 1960s when McCartney’s photography blossomed into a career boosted by awards and being the first female photographer to get on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine (with a portrait of Eric Clapton). There are additional anecdotes from pals Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. One tiny room with a big heart shows McCartney’s love for animals and animal rights. In a far corner, there is a small space to view two videos showing a selection of her work. As you leave the space there is an opportunity to buy from a selection of limited edition prints from the exhibition.

 

The Beatles at Brian Epstein’s home in Belgravia at the launch of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, London 1967
The Beatles at Brian Epstein’s home in Belgravia at the launch of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, London 1967 © Paul McCartney / Photographer: Linda McCartney

 

There’s a definite nostalgia to this retrospective made all the more poignant by the loss of a talent and a life cut short by cancer. In today’s digital age of mobile phones, filter apps and computer editing, the aesthetic richness and quality of the photographs is all the more evident. Sadly, at least three times, I overheard people declare that they were unaware that McCartney was a photographer let alone her talent for her craft.

Linda Eastman had multiple roles, including Mrs McCartney, Stella’s mother, Wings band member, animal rights activist, maker of veggie meals and cookbooks. Linda McCartney is often viewed through one of these lenses. Finally, posthumously, this is now an opportunity to celebrate her talent as a photographer alongside her humility and compassion.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street
Glasgow G3 8AG

Open Monday to Thursday and Saturday 10am to 5pm and Friday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.

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