Sir William Burrell bought his first painting at the age of 15 with a few shillings he’d been given for a cricket bat. This was the start of a lifelong journey which built on his great love and appreciations of all forms of art. A natural flair for business, which earned him a sizeable fortune, allowed him to indulge in his passion across the globe.
The bulk of his wealth came during the First World War (1914-18) when he sold ships for many times more than he had paid for them. Sir William and his wife Constance, also known as Lady Burrell, gifted their collection of 9,000 objects to the city of Glasgow in 1944. The collection takes visitors on a world tour and spans 6,000 years of our shared history, featuring people and places across the globe.
His collection, the Burrell Collection, is housed in the fabulous museum in Pollok Country Park. William Burrell didn’t just collect art from the past, he also bought art that was modern, exciting and challenging. He was involved in Glasgow’s lively art world and he built relationships with some of Scotland’s main artists. Burrell was one of the first Scottish collectors to buy artworks by the French artists Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne and Auguste Rodin. These painters and sculptors were pioneering, political and controversial in their day. Examples of their work are featured prominently in the collection.
The museum re-opened in March 2022 having been closed since October 2016 for refurbishment. It was designed by architects Sir Barry Gasson and Bret Andresen. The building itself is a work of art that allows visitors to comfortably explore the collection in the fabulous setting of Pollok Country Park. The £68.25mn refurbishment was funded by the Scottish and UK governments, Glasgow City Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
There is currently much debate and discussion about art and culture, its importance in our national life and geographical location across the UK. The Burrell Collection in Glasgow is a collection of national importance, housed in one of the greatest modern museum buildings in the land. It is one of Glasgow’s most loved buildings welcoming around two million visitors a year.
If you live in Scotland and have not yet been to the Burrell, you are missing a treat. There is enough on display to interest all ages and tastes. Entry is free, therefore no excuse to not immerse yourself into a whole new world of art as seen through the eyes of one of Scotland’s greatest collectors. Also, Pollok Country Park is a wonderful location to take your visitors for a day out in Glasgow, City of Culture.
You do, now.
Out and About by Charlie McCarthy is a regular feature of Bylines Scotland, published on the first Friday of each month. If you have an idea for Out and About, please get in touch or, even better, write about it. Email [email protected] with Out and About in the subject field.