Reframing the Hunterian Art Gallery

Published: 23 March 2023

This April, The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow will reveal a full redisplay of its Hunterian Art Gallery.

This April, The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow will reveal a full redisplay of its Hunterian Art Gallery.

From 1 April, visitors will be able to see over 200 artworks spanning seven centuries in the revamped main gallery. Many of the works have never been on show before or have been hidden from view for a number of years.

The Hunterian Art Gallery, a much-loved venue in the west end of Glasgow, is home to the University of Glasgow’s extensive art collection which includes paintings of international importance, the largest print collection in Scotland, a growing contemporary art collection and an outdoor sculpture courtyard.

The iconic building was designed by William Whitfield and Partners and constructed between 1973 and 1981. It is an outstanding example of the architectural style known as brutalism, with its blocky shapes and walls of raw, ridged concrete.

To make these amazing collections and wonderful spaces more meaningful to more people, the artworks will be presented under new themes such as ‘What Makes a Portrait’, ‘Colour and Light, Art and Science’ and ‘Art Across Borders’, which will ask questions and invite discussion. Items from The Hunterian’s natural history and science collections will also feature, giving context to the artworks and highlighting the range and breadth of the collections.

Looking from new perspectives as opposed to a traditional historical narrative, the displays will ask questions such as: How do art and history influence each other? What can one picture tell us? What counts as art? How are artworks made?

They will include a significant number of works made by women, with 25 female artists represented including Bessie MacNicol, Phoebe Traquair, Joan Eardley, Victoria Dubourg, Helen Frankenthaler, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky and Christine Borland.

Works on view for the first time will include Gouffres Amers (1939) by English surrealist artist Ithell Colquhoun, Memories of the Sea (1936) by Josephine Haswell Miller, The Puppet Maker (1978) by James Cumming, and a rare, possibly unique impression of the print Sunday Afternoon (1941) by African American artist Dox Thrash.

The displays will also highlight a number of works that have not been on view for a number of years including Boite d'Allumettes (1963) by French Haitian artist Herve Telemaque, Sea Devil's Watchtower (1960) by Alan Davie, one of Scotland's most important modernist painters, A Paris Street by Scottish Colourist Samuel John Peploe and The Great Honey Coloured Moon (c.1911) by Glasgow Girl Jessie Marion King.

Also featured will be artworks that have undergone intense conservation, giving them a new lease of life, such as John Hoyland’s 18-6-69 and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s stunning gesso panel The White Rose and the Red Rose, which has not been on display since 2016.

Regular visitors will still be able to see favourite works including A Lady Taking Tea by Jean-Simeon Chardin (once voted Glasgow’s second favourite painting), Les Eus by John Duncan Fergusson and a number of works by Whistler, the Scottish Colourists and the Glasgow Boys.

The redisplayed Hunterian Art Gallery main gallery opens on Saturday 1 April 2023. Admission is free.

Hunterian Art Gallery
University of Glasgow
82 Hillhead Street
Glasgow G12 8QQ

Open Tuesday–Sunday 10.00am–5pm
Admission free

For further information or images contact:
Harriet Gaston, Communications Manager, The Hunterian

Notes to Editors

Hunterian Art Collection History

Dr William Hunter (1718-1783) bequeathed his collection of art to the University of Glasgow in 1783. It was originally housed at the Hunterian Museum.

The Hunterian Art Gallery was developed in the 1970s to house to the University’s growing collection of artworks.

The Hunterian Art Gallery was designed by William Whitfield and Partners and constructed between 1973 and 1981.

It is an outstanding example of the architectural style known as brutalism, with its blocky shapes and its walls of raw, ridged concrete.

The Hunterian Art Gallery opened in 1980, followed by the Mackintosh House in 1981.

Today the Hunterian Art Gallery is home to:

  • A painting collection of international importance, comprising over 900 paintings with strengths on old masters, Whistler, Mackintosh and Scottish Art
  • The largest print collection in Scotland (more than 40,000 works from the 15th century to the present)
  • An outdoor sculpture courtyard
  • The Mackintosh House, a recreation of the interior lay-out, decor and furnishings of the house at 78 Southpark Avenue where Charles Rennie Mackintosh lived from 1906 to 1914

The Hunterian

The oldest public museum in Scotland, with collections spanning arts, sciences and humanities, The Hunterian is at the forefront of university museums around the world. Since it opened at the University of Glasgow in 1807, The Hunterian has been an invaluable academic and community resource and in years to come, The Hunterian is committed to becoming a more meaningful place for more diverse audiences.

As a university gallery and museum, The Hunterian creates space for intellectual inquiry and a process of learning and experimentation. The Hunterian collection’s Enlightenment history made a repository of knowledge that materialises the problematic history of Western modernity and its fundamentally colonial and capitalist underpinnings. The founding collection came through the bequest of Dr William Hunter (1718-1783) and since The Hunterian opened at the University of Glasgow in 1807, the collections have been developed in ways that reflect our city’s deep relationship with empire, transatlantic slavery, colonialism and migration. 

The Hunterian cares for some Scotland’s finest collections that cover subjects as diverse as the history of medicine, zoology and art. The whole collection is ‘Recognised’ as nationally significant in Scotland and includes outstanding Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall; vast natural and life science collections; scientific instruments used by James Watt, Joseph Lister and Lord Kelvin; one of the world’s greatest collections of coins and medals and objects and belongings brought to Glasgow from around the world during hundreds of years of trade, empire, exploitation and migration. 

The Hunterian is also home to one of the most distinguished public art collections in Scotland and features works by James McNeill Whistler, the Glasgow Boys and Scottish Colourists, the largest single holding of the work of artists Margaret MacDonald and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, along with The Mackintosh House, the reassembled interiors from their Glasgow home. The Hunterian has also developed an important collection of works by leading contemporary artists including Christine Borland, Lucy Skaer and Adam Pendleton.

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First published: 23 March 2023