Linda McCartney retrospective at the KunstHaus Wien

KunstHaus, Vienna: Linda McCartney (née Eastman, 1941-1998) had, contraŕy to belief of many The Beatles fans, a sucessful photographic career prior to encounter with her famous husband. She was the first female photographer who (in 1968) had a photograph published on the cover of Rolling Stone. It was a portrait of Eric Clapton, one of many rock’n’roll stars who praised the collaboration with Linda McCartney as a pleasant experience.

The progress of Linda McCartney to stars of “swinging 60’s” was both haphazard and daring. Born as a daughter of a popular attorney who was often professionally engaged by artists and musicians, Linda grew up accustomed to faces of people well known to public. In early 1960’s, by mere chance, she enrolled to the photography course of Hazel Archer at the famous Black Mountain College, where she for the first time held a camera. Archer immediately recognized her proclivity for portraying, and influenced her to dedicate herself to photography. The camera became a permanent companion of the American photographer who, starting from 1966 when she, at that time employed as a receptionist at the “Town and Country” magazine, grabbed a chance to be a part of the “floating” photo shooting of Rolling Stones at the Hudson River, which helped her launch a brilliant career. The photographs of Mick Jagger and Brian Jones as unpretentious young people, obviously flirting with person behind the camera, came across as refreshing new in the spontaneity of the moment. A year later, Linda Eastman was commissioned to do a material about the “Swinging London” and it is there that she met her future husband who approached her in a night club with rather unoriginal introduction “Hello, I am Paul!”. Just four days later, independently from this episode and related to her assignment, Eastman caught with her camera The Beatles’ promotion of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album at the Brian Epstein’s home.

The pleasant nature of Linda McCartney and her personal unpretending relation with the people she was dealing with provided her with opportunity to work with the biggest celebrities in the entertaining industry. Some of the most remarkable portraits of Jimmy Hendrix, Beach Boys, Ginger Baker, Grateful Dead, Otis Redding, Frank Zappa and other artists, models, movie directors and authors (among them Jim Jarmush, Johny Depp & Kate Moss, Allen Ginsberg, Gilbert & George, Willem de Kooning and Neil Young) can be admired at the current exhibition in the KunstHaus.

Exhibited are also three b/w portraits of the Author herself, done by Jim Morrison and Graham Nash (of “Crossby, Stills, Nash & Young”).
The rest of the displayed photographs witnesses the problem of the „stolen show“ which Linda faced since her wedding with Paul McCartney in 1969. The artistic liberty which she previously enjoyed surrendered place when she turned into object of merciless focus of the media and obsessive fans that relentlessly followed McCartneys. The young photographer started to „fire back“ upon the curious lot, and some of these photographs are also presented at the exhibition.

Special emotions of the visitors are not caused by portraits of the famous as much as by the family photos which were mainly taken at the family property in Scotland, among them a sentimental shot of Paul hiding his newborn daughter under the breast flap of his fur coat, the same one that was later used for the cover of his solo album “Maybe I’m amazed” in 1970.
Linda McCartney eagerly explored photo techniques, and the Kunsthaus displays her cyanotypias, platinotypias and photogravures.
Personal contrubution to the preservation of memory of the art of his first consort (who died way to young of breast cancer in 1998) of Paul McCartney consists not only of his unrelentant dedication to her humanitarian work and foundation, but also as a director of a seven-minute movie „Grateful Dead“ (1995), accompanied by music from their album „Anthem of the Sun“ (1968). The movie consists of fast-pacing b/w photographs that Linda McCartney shot at two locations: Central Park, and famous „Dead House“, 710 Ashbury, San Francisco.This exhibition, largest so far representing the artworks by Linda McCartney, with 190 photographs – portraits, landscapes and family shots, brought to Vienna Sir Paul McCartney (although for barely two hours), whose arrival was being kept secret up to the last moment. “This is Linda’s show!”, said Sir Paul in the short address to the press.

The exhibition runs through October 6th.