1 July 2019

Glasgow's Linda McCartney Retrospective

Linda McCartney, the late photographer who cut a path through rock-and-roll before marrying Beatles bassist Paul McCartney, is getting her first UK retrospective this week. The show, simply titled “The Linda McCartney Retrospective,” is curated by Paul McCartney and their two daughters, Mary and Stella. It brings together dozens of Linda McCartney’s photos—from famous portraits of 1960s rock icons to more personal snapshots of her quiet home life with Paul—as well a trove of archival materials being shown in public for the first time, including cameras, her personal magazine collection, and even a diary from the ’60s. 

McCartney, whose maiden name was Eastman, was born in Westchester County, New York, in 1941. After studying art history at the University of Arizona, she was hired as a receptionist and editorial assistant for Town & Country magazine. There, she jumped on an opportunity to photograph the Rolling Stones on a yacht during a meet-and-greet press junket, despite having little photographic training. Impressed with the young photographer’s ability to capture her subjects in candid intimacy, the editors ran the images in a spread. 

By the mid-1960s, she was taking regular editorial assignments, shooting musicians like Otis Redding, B.B. King, and Jimi Hendrix. In 1968, a photo she took of Eric Clapton appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, making her the first female photographer to land the coveted spot. She met Paul in 1967, just before the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The two married two years later and co-formed the post-Beatles band Paul McCartney and Wings in 1970.

“I always used to joke that I ruined Linda’s career,” Paul McCartney told the Guardian earlier this week. “She became known as ‘Paul’s wife’, instead of the focus being on her photography. But, as time went on, people started to realize that she was the real thing. So, yeah, she eventually did get the correct reputation, but at first it was just blown out of the water by the headline-grabbing marriage.”

In a rare statement accompanying the show, daughter and designer Stella said “through these images you meet the real mother I knew, You see her raw and deep talent and passion for her art, photography. Ahead of her time on every level, this mother of four still held her camera close like a companion, she captures the world around her through her eyes and this can be seen on the walls around the exhibition.”

After a multi-year battle with breast cancer, McCartney died in April 1998.

The show will make its debut at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery on July 5, after a whirlwind of stops at Vienna, Montpellier and Seoul.