This is an unedited version of a piece which I wrote for The Herald's Arts section on Christmas Eve
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street, Glasgow
0141 276 9599
Closed Dec 25 & 26, afternoon of Dec 31, Jan 1 & Jan 2
|Two Children by Joan Eardley (my two children will thank me for showing it to them... when they're not children any more!)|
THIS year, as a Christmas present for filing my copy in time for the past year, my editor asked me to revisit Kelvingrove’s art collection.
Even though I live near Glasgow, since Kelvingrove reopened in 2006, I have been promising myself I’ll spend a few hours taking in just the art work, so it was a timely gift.
I have had flying visits through some of the galleries, mostly in the company of young children, and though the art collection has been partly reconfigured by curators for the benefit of younger visitors, my two children now roll their eyes around in their head whenever I start to moon over an artwork.
As for watching videos about art? Forget it. Recently, I managed to hoodwink my eight-year-old daughter into seeing Dali’s Christ of St. John, now relocated in a room of its own on the South balcony, and I was literally pushed out of the door before I could take in any of the interpretation panels or the fascinating film about how the painting came to Glasgow, its near demise after a vandal ripped it, and the subsequent restoration.
|Dali’s Christ of St. John|
She did, on the other hand, linger lovingly over a black and white picture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style gallery on the ground floor, as her school house name is Mackintosh. I even photographed her with Toshie... They made a lovely couple.
Like many visitors to Kelvingrove, I had my first taster of major artists in Kelvingrove. I vividly recall my first glimpse of the Dali hanging at the end of a long corridor. The image burned its way into my already overheated synapses and stayed there, ready to come out whenever I needed it.
Last week, I had a guided tour with senior curator Jean Walsh. We started off in the new Glasgow Boys Gallery on the ground floor. This gallery opened in October in response to the overwhelming success of Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900, the most popular exhibition ever held in Kelvingrove.
Lavery’s large luminescent oil of Anna Pavlova, painted in 1910, ushers you into this space. All the well-known Boys, Guthrie, Walton, Henry, Hornel, Lavery, are back in town.There is also work by lesser-known names such as James Nairn, Harrington Mann, Alexander Roche and the only sculptor in the camp, Pittendrigh Macgillivray.
It’s a fine addition to the Kelvingrove’s repertoire and good news that there is now a place to see the Glasgow Boys in their home turf. Also on the ground floor, is Looking At Art and the Art Discovery Centre, which have provided the curators with an chance to bring out art work from stores and add interpretation panels.
“All our paintings and sculpture have their own file, a bit like in a a doctors’ surgery,’ Jean tells me, ‘so we have been able to add to the stories behind the work. Some purists dislike this approach, but it is very popular.’
Fascinating examples in these sections include John Pringle, a Glasgow optician and amateur painter who worked around the turn of the twentieth century, an Anne Redpath painting showing both sides of the picture (she painted on back and front) and a ‘restoration in progress’ painting by Glasgow Girl Norah Neilston Gray.
In the Looking at Art section, there’s a pick n mix approach to presenting the work, from a small Jack Vettriano self-portrait, (recently loaned by owners Miles and Marina Turner), to a Stanley Spencer from his Port Glasgow war-time period, a Lesley Banks painting, 39
Weeks and Waiting, side-by-side with a Joan Eardley painting of street children, and Avril Paton’s now iconic Windows on the West, featuring a Glasgow tenement in winter, now the most viewed painting in Kelvingrove after the Dali.
Upstairs, the treasure hunt continues, via the Dali in its new ‘home’ and into the Dutch, Italian and French art rooms which all flow into one another. ‘We are lucky to have one of the finest collection of Dutch art in a municipal collection,” Jean tells me. I’m ashamed to say I had never clocked Rembrandt’s Man in Armour before, but now I’ve savoured its darkly haunting presence, I’ll be revisiting.
The collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist work includes some beauties, including Monet’s Vetheuil, Mary Cassat’s The Young Girls and Matiise’s The Pink Tablecloth.
Every Picture Tells a Story will keep young visitors entertained, talking out as it does, the story behind a handful of the collections’ paintings, but I found Scottish Identify in Art a motley mixter-maxter of eras and styles.
Covering everything from Tartanalia to a rather fearsome collection of guns which once belonged to Glasgow architect called Charles Whitelaw, you’ll also see some fine Raeburns and a handsome marble bust of Adam Smith, carved many years after his death by Patric Park.
The corridors outside these galleries also contain some easily missed work, including Alison Watt’s 2007 painting, Phantom, and a giant stone wall work by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Clay the Life. Blink and you’ll miss perfect Peploe still lifes on these walls too.
Give yourself a present this holiday, and pay a visit to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove. After all, it belongs to you.
|The Druids - Bringing in the Mistletoe by Henry and Hornel|