Edinburgh’s The Scottish Gallery exhibition Modern Masters Women celebrated the work of Scotland’s major female artists from the past 125 years, including Kate Downie, the famed Scottish artist known for her visceral depictions of Scottish urban and rural landscapes which give an alternative perspective on everyday life. Known for her children’s book illustration as well as her paintings, Emily Sutton was included in this exhibition, who we caught up with as well as the Director of the Scottish Gallery, Christina Jansen.

TF: How does it feel to be included in the exhibition Modern Masters Women?

Emily Sutton: I’m incredibly honoured to be included in the Modern Masters Women exhibition. As a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, I have a strong connection with the city and in particular The Scottish Gallery who I have shown with for nearly a decade. The line-up of artists in this show is fantastic and I’m very excited to be featured amongst many of the women whose work has been such an inspiration to me.

TF: Can you tell us more about the exhibition for those of us that don’t yet know?

Christina Jansen: In the spirit of the Festival, The Scottish Gallery is celebrating 125 years of exhibiting women artists. It is impossible today to deny the huge contribution that women artists have made to the Scottish cultural realm. But this is relatively recent history. Before 1900, it is a struggle to find the talented women artists who certainly lived but whose contribution was curtailed by Victorian society and the dominance of male-led institutions. The Scottish Gallery recognised the commercial potential of emerging talent coming out of the Scottish Art schools, regardless of the artist’s sex. Our exhibition includes works by Anne Redpath, the first woman member of the Royal Scottish Academy and Joan Eardley, an artist of established international reputation. In addition, we have included work by women who had successful exhibiting careers, such as Mardi Barrie, Barbara Balmer and Bet Low who are ripe for rediscovery.

The great strength is in our contemporary section; we have exceptional living artists of originality and genius whose contribution to the arts is unquestionable, artists who have reaped the benefits of an open art world, particularly in Scotland. We have also joined forces with several organisations, curators and art historians to create a special online events programme which centres on the history of women artists and current practice. These are free events, available to all. There is also the wonderful opportunity to meet our contemporary artists by Zoom! Modern Masters Women can be viewed in The Gallery, virtually and online.

TF: And which of your works can we expect in the exhibition, your prints or picture books?

ES: The works I have in the show are some of my recent still life works. I’ve always loved the still life as a subject because it allows me to fully embrace my love for detail and observational drawing. Over the past months, whilst the world shut down, I found comfort in bringing out some of my collected treasures and combining them with elements from nature – another aspect of life that I’ve been appreciating and absorbing myself in even more than usual.

TF: What’s next on the cards for Emily Sutton, as a fan of children’s books and hats, it would be great to see another magical hat day?

ES: Next on the cards for me are several picture books of very differing subjects: a non-fiction book on giraffes in Niger, a true story of a young girl who became a lighthouse keeper on the coast of Connecticut, and a large poetry treasury for children. I’m also working on a couple of personal projects and hope to be able to start going further afield on some painting expeditions in the not too distant future – fingers crossed!

The works from Modern Masters Women is available to view online here.