ART INDEX: Linda McCartney
Article written by Bianca Mafodda on June 3, 2022
“The real thing that makes a photographer is more than just a technical skill, more than turning on the radio. It has to do with the force of inner intention. I have always called this a visual signature...”
- Linda McCartney
Linda Louise McCartney was born in Scarsdale, New York, on September 24th, 1941. She graduated from Scarsdale High School, Westchester County, New York in 1960, and went on to study at the University of Arizona, where she majored in art history.
There she came across the pictures of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston and was so inspired by them that she started investigating photography, both the technical aspects and the historic ones. She was so fascinated by the early photographic pioneer William Henry Fox that she decided to honor him by producing her first handcrafted cyanotype prints. This was only the beginning of her experimental mindset, which was something that she would bring along throughout all her career.
She started working as an editorial receptionist at Town and Country Magazine and it was there that she got her first big break. She snuck into a Rolling Stones promotional party on the Hudson River and took such candid, intimate and relaxed pictures of the band that the magazine published them as an editorial feature. This was only the first of her many magazine commissions.
Starting in the mid-1960s, Linda became a professional photographer, and her pictures were a statement of the musical revolution of the times. She got to photograph all the musical icons of those years, including The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, B.B. King, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, The Beach Boys, The Who, Cream, The Kinks, Traffic, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix. In 1967 she was named US Female Photographer of the year and in 1968 her pictures of Eric Clapton for the Rolling Stone Magazine made her the first female photographer to have work featured on the magazine’s cover.
In that same period, she met Paul McCartney while in London for a shoot. The two married two years later in London on March 12th, 1969. Thus, Linda joined Paul on tour and started playing on stage and writing her own songs. Additionally, her photographs documented their travels and their family life, both on and off stage.
Linda and Paul were pioneers of the vegetarian diet and Linda started writing about it. Eventually, two of her vegetarian cookbooks, “Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking” and “Linda’s Kitchen,” became international bestsellers. She was also very devoted to the animal cause and collaborated with a lot of non-profit organizations that were fighting for animal and environmental rights.
Her photographs caused her to be involved in animated short films as well. Seaside Woman was turned into a cartoon by director Oscar Grillo and won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980. Moreover, Linda’s photographs of The Grateful Dead became the inspiration and focus of Grateful Dead: A Photofilm, produced from a process of making photographic stills move and morph. It was directed by Paul McCartney.
Linda continued to work prolifically as a photographer throughout her life, documenting family life, landscapes, the natural world, interiors, social life and taking portraits of artists of all kinds. Her photographs have been exhibited in over 70 cities in 15 countries. Her work is on display in the National Portrait Galleries of both the UK and the USA. Despite her fruitful career as a photographer, animal life campaigner, cookbook author, musician and vegetarian pioneer, Linda said her greatest achievement was her four children Heather, Mary, Stella and James.
Linda’s oldest auction result is a photography sold in 1993, at Butterfield & Butterfield, while the most recent auction result is a photography sold in 2022. Due to the innovative impact of her works, her art has seen a rise of interest among collectors in the last few years, as you can see by looking at the picture below.