Col­lec­tor’s great gift to city


WHEN Sir Wil­liam Bur­rell gave his col­lec­tion to Glas­gow 75 years ago it was de­scribed as “one of the great­est gifts ever made to any city in the world.”

Sir Hec­tor Hether­ing­ton’s claim was made months af­ter the be­quest was signed in April 1944 and the Prin­ci­pal of Glas­gow Univer­sity’s as­sess­ment proved perceptive.

When the build­ing which houses the col­lec­tion first opened in Pol­lok Park in Oc­to­ber 1983, the in­ter­na­tional me­dia in­ter­est was di­rect ev­i­dence of the global im­por­tance al­luded to by Sir Hec­tor.

The open­ing was cov­ered in mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers around the world, from the USA to Aus­tralia and from Ger­many to Brazil.

The Bur­rell Col­lec­tion com­prises more than 8000 items, housed in a cus­tom-built, award­win­ning museum.

Sir Wil­liam Bur­rell (1861-1958) was a Glaswe­gian ship owner and col­lec­tor with a life­long pas­sion for art. The col­lec­tion’s sig­nif­i­cance has grown fur­ther since 1983 with more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple com­ing to view its mag­nif­i­cent trea­sures be­fore the build­ing re­fur­bish­ment be­gan in 2016.

The ar­eas cov­ered by the col­lec­tion are out­stand­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples of their kind, com­pa­ra­ble in qual­ity to the V&A or the Metropoli­tan Museum of New York.

The largest sin­gle col­lec­tion area is Chi­nese art.

This is con­sid­ered to be of out­stand­ing sig­nif­i­cance and many of the finest works are cur­rently on show in Bur­rell at Kelv­in­grove: Col­lect­ing Chi­nese Trea­sures.

The se­cond great glory of the col­lec­tion lies in the Late Gothic and Early Re­nais­sance works of art from North­ern Europe, in­clud­ing ta­pes­tries, stained glass, sculp­ture, arms and ar­mour, ar­chi­tec­ture and fur­ni­ture.

Bur­rell was in­ter­ested in his­tory as well as art, and there are many items with a royal as­so­ci­a­tions, in­clud­ing the stained glass por­trait of the Plan­ta­genet Princess Ce­cily, the Queen El­iz­a­beth I com­mu­nion cup cover and the chris­ten­ing apron of Prince Charles Ed­ward Ste­wart.

Other sec­tions in­clude French art, amassed with the help of the dealer Alexan­der Reid, friend of van Gogh and Whistler, Dutch paint­ings, Is­lamic art, car­pets, and an­tiq­ui­ties.

The am­bi­tious re­fur­bish­ment of the Bur­rell Col­lec­tion build­ing and re­dis­play of ob­jects will al­low vis­i­tors, for the first time, to ex­plore all three floors which will be ded­i­cated to gal­leries, vis­i­ble stores and spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions.

More than 75 years of Sir Wil­liam Bur­rell’s life were de­voted to amass­ing one of the world’s great­est, sin­gle per­sonal col­lec­tions.

The £66m re­fur­bish­ment will see the museum’s gallery space in­crease by 35% and pub­lic space in­crease by 83%, al­low­ing im­por­tant and unique ob­jects from Bur­rell’s Col­lec­tion which have not been seen for decades or have never been on per­ma­nent dis­play, to go on show for vis­i­tors to en­joy.

As well as im­proved fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing a café and shops, land­scaped ter­races will link the museum to its park­land set­ting, and a re-in­ter­pre­ta­tion of trea­sures of the col­lec­tion will also tell much more of a story about their im­por­tance and how they were col­lected.

Sir An­gus Grossart, chair­man of The Bur­rell Re­nais­sance, said: “The Bur­rell Col­lec­tion was the great­est gift that Glas­gow ever re­ceived.

“It re­flects Sir Wil­liam’s ex­cep­tional achieve­ment and di­ver­sity as a col­lec­tor and his vi­sion that it should in­spire ap­pre­ci­a­tion and imag­i­na­tion.”

He added: “When The Bur­rell Col­lec­tion re-opens in spring 2021, it will again wel­come vis­i­tors from around the world to ad­mire and ap­pre­ci­ate the col­lec­tion.”

•For more in­for­ma­tion, visit glas­

The Bur­rell Court­yard and Eve statue. Main pic­ture, the col­lec­tion of stained glass

Pic­ture: Ross MacDon­ald

Dr Yupin Chung, cu­ra­tor of Chi­nese and Far Eastern Civil­i­sa­tions

The col­lec­tion is housed in Pol­lok Park

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