Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow.

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‘Hanging Heads,’ Kelvingrove Central Courtyard. (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

When I returned to Leeds mid-January, it meant that I still had several weeks off before my second term started. Naturally. my thoughts turned to holidays , so myself and three friends decided to travel to Glasgow for a couple of days of relaxation.

Of course, this trip included a visit to Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery. As regular readers may or may not know, I tend to plan holidays around what museums there are to visit in any given destination or city! Glasgow not being the exception. The actual Kelvingrove building is breathtaking, as it is built in a neo-gothic architectural style, so favoured by late Victorian architects.

The same style of architecture was used in the building of the V&A, though this is not to compare Kelvingrove with the V&A. Both museums are different, as the V&A caters to a larger audience, where Kelvingrove caters to a smaller, possibly locally centred audience.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is based around a central courtyard, with two wings emanating to both the right and left hand sides of the courtyard. The central courtyard is a stunning, Italian Baroque creation, with a squared pattern on the roof of coloured tiles.

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‘Central Courtyard, Kelvingrove,’ (c) Rachel Sayers, 2015.

Throughout the exhibition spaces, there was a central theme of national pride seen in the objects, ephemera and paintings on display. This is not to say that this nationalistic pride is overwhelming, it is subtlety done by the inclusion of artefacts produced by famous Scottish artists, manufacturers and artisans.

There was a great emphasis on the ‘Glasgow Boys’, group of artists which included one of my favourite artists, Sir John Lavery. Their style was in keeping with the Impressionistic style of the late 19th Century. Some of the paintings were breathtaking, especially in the use of colour, gilding and subject matter. My favourite painting, is pictured below. I was entranced by its mesmeric use of colour and the detail of the pattern within the Druid’s clothing.

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‘The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe,’ George Henry and Edward Atkinson, 1890, Oil on Canvas. (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

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‘Detail of Druidesses’ dresses.’ (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

Throughout the museum, there was also a concentration on paintings, particularly of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century period. There was also several sections that included on crafting and the manufacture of consumer goods. Afterall, Glasgow was an industrial city that produced everything from textiles to ships. Surprisingly enough, there was little mention or depiction of the famous shipyards of Glasgow within either the paintings or manufactured works on display. Perhaps, there is another museum in Glasgow that centres more on the industrial heritage of the city?

Some examples of the manufacturing goods that were on display, were exquisite silks and damasks that were hand sewn by Glasgow seamstresses in the 18th Century. In the pictures below, you can see some examples of these costumes. Of particular interest, is the fact that Glasgow was an important trading city and expensive silks from India could be imported. These were then worn by the wealthy elite of the city, particularly the wives of industrialists.

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‘Robe a la Francaise, of damask linen with embroidered foliage and back pleats. c1780’s.’ (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

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‘Robe a la Anglaise? of Spitalfields Printed Silk, with flounces on elbows, stomacher and front of skirt.’ (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

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‘Detail of the above.’ (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

Of course, no visit to a museum in Glasgow is complete without a mention of one of the city’s most famous sons; Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh was famous for the Art Nouveau style of naturalistic and plant-esque lines within his work. Some of his most famous accomplishments were the Glasgow School of  Art (sadly burnt down last year and undergoing restoration) and the Willow Tea Rooms. In Kelvingrove, there is a re-creation of what one of the original tables and China services would have looked like in the Willow Tea Room.

Aforementioned, there was a great emphasis on the painters associated with Glasgow. This continued with a section devoted to the ‘Scottish Colourists’ of the early 20th Century. Think bold, bright block colours with depictions of mainly women drinking tea, shopping or simply posing for the artist. Some of the most famous Scottish Colourists were; Francis Cadell, George Leslie Hunter and Peploe. Cadell painted such celebrities of the day as Vita Sackville-West the British author poet. Their use of line, composition and block colours was heavily influenced by the old Dutch Masters, as can be seen in the pictures below.

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‘Willow Tea Rooms’, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Ceramic, Textile, Wood, c1900?. (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

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‘Vita Sackville-West,’ Oil on Canvas, 1918, Francis Cadell. (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

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‘Interior- The Orange Blind.’ Oil on Canvas, 1920’s?, Francis Cadell. (c) Rachel Sayers 2015.

Overall, I was very impressed with both the collection and layout of Kelvingrove. The map and wayfinding instructions were both clear and easy to find. I thought that there was an item that could enthrall every visitor, from the very young to the very old and the academic to the casual visitor. As I come from a fine art and costume background, I was very happy that there was a lot of fine art paintings and costume included within the display. I would highly recommend a visit to Kelvingrove next time you are in Glasgow, even to just see the building itself!

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