Exhibition Review: Modern Scottish Women, Scottish Gallery of Modern Art

On a sunny/rainy/humid Scottish summers day, the History Girls made their way through the crowds of Princes Street to the relative calm of the Scottish Galleries of Modern Art, known as Modern One & Two.  The Modern Scottish Women exhibition at Modern Two closes on the 26th of June, so we decided to do a doubler and visit this and the summer blockbuster Surreal Encounters exhibition at Modern One in the same day, which turned out to be a very good idea given their proximity to one another and the time it took to walk round each exhibition space.

To give you a more full picture of our day, I feel like I should tell you that we had a delicious lunch en route to the Moderns at Meze Meze in Rose Street.  We had Turkish beer, Baba Ganoush and much else besides, and it was bloody delicious.  Refreshed, we travelled on down Princes Street, something Karen the Glaswegian didn’t enjoy, as I think it’s fair to say that Princes Street is far too small for the number of pedestrians who wish to use it.  The quiet wooded lawns of Modern Two were therefore a very welcome idyll, and after taking some compulsory selfies we headed in.

We couldn’t help ourselves.


The entrance fee was £9 full price, although we will both be enjoying student discounts very soon, mwahahaha.  There was no photography allowed within the exhibition itself, but it is at this point we can recommend buying the exhibition catalogue, a beautiful glossy tome which provides biographical and contextual information about women artists in Scotland, as well as high quality images of a large number of works featured.  The exhibition itself though was excellent.  The interpretation was not afraid to highlight the issues faced by these women, such as the Marriage Bar, but did so in a neutral manner.  Karen and I found ourselves particularly drawn to the works from the 1910s and 20s, and our movement through the space felt natural.  With the works were organised by date, the date range being from 1885-1965, rather than style meant that there was a pleasant coherency which allowed for introductory text to give context to each era being explored.  The lighting, spacing and organisation meant that all works, including sculpture, could be comfortably viewed, and seats and copies of the exhibition catalogue dotted throughout each gallery added to the welcoming feel.  Karen and I left the exhibition feeling positive and refreshed, it really was brilliant to see these exceptional female artists celebrated in an internationally recognised institution.  More if that please!

One of Karen’s favourite works was the early 1920s painting Mother and Child by Norah Neilson Gray.  Karen loved the colour and warmth which seems to vibrate from this striking piece.  It is incredibly modern and bold, but its theme is an eternal one.

I mean wow.


I loved September Sunlight by Dorothy Johnstone in 1916.  I think the colours are beautiful, and the way the light streams in the window and makes everything glow is wonderful.  It’s a calming image for me, and one which makes me think I can smell clean air and whitewash.


Makes me feel serene.


Our joint favourite was Doris Zinkeisen’s self portrait from 1929 as it made us both say ‘wow’ and also gave us a new role model in life.  Doris is strong, sensual and sassy in this elegant and entrancing painting, she is just so damn stylish and sexy that we both now want to be a little bit more like her in our everyday life.  We are both now on the hunt for fringed and embroidered shawls.

Honestly, what a babe.



It does seem a little rude that we are posting a review after the exhibition has closed, apologies to all, but buy the book, do some of your own reading, and celebrate these women in your own way.

Stay tuned for a review on the Surreal Encounters exhibition (and playground…) at Modern One, this one is actually on till September 11th, so you’ve got plenty of time to see it.

“sit there so I can get you and the banner in”







One Comment Add yours

  1. Anabel Marsh says:

    We were also late to the party – we visited last weekend, and I agree about how good it was and that the catalogue is a must-buy. The exhibition of Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham prints was also excellent, with a lovely film about her life. As for lunch, we had a very fine spread in Modern 2 itself. Too tired to go across the road – something for next time!


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