Image gallery

A Curator's Choice

A Curator's Choice opened at the Hunterian Art Gallery on 6 March 2020, some two weeks before the UK-wide lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Celebrating twenty years of collecting and research at The Hunterian, it offered a very special opportunity to see an outstanding selection of art works acquired by, and given to, The Hunterian over the past two decades. This online version allows you to enjoy the best of the show from wherever you are.  

A Curator's Choice

A Curator's Choice exhibition galleryCurator (Latin, meaning person who cares for)

In 2019 Peter Black retired from The Hunterian and the University of Glasgow, having worked as curator since 1998. This exhibition shows one aspect of his legacy, in presenting a selection from the 300 or so acquisitions he made. 

These acquisitions – whether purchases, gifts or bequests which he encouraged – were guided by a combination of considerations. The decisive factor has usually been The Hunterian’s mission, the curator’s expertise, and above all the historical importance of the objects. And sometimes it was down to luck. Most acquisitions were inspired by an opportunity that arose in the course of research on existing works in the collection. A productive approach has been to focus acquisitions for a time in a single area, for example as part of plans for a future exhibition.

The works in this display are grouped to represent different areas of the curator’s activity: collections research; research into the history of printmaking; engagement with artists and engagement with donors.

Peter Paul Rubens, Head of an Old Man with Curly Beard, Oil on panel, c. 1609.Peter Paul Rubens
Head of an Old Man with Curly Beard
Oil on panel
c. 1609

Establishing that Hunter’s panel is indeed by Rubens was a Hunterian research project from 2004–2013, and it meant studying the role played by this work in Rubens’ studio practice. This vigorous old man’s head is not a portrait. It was painted to provide a template of a saintly type, in an expressive pose, that was exploited in several workshop compositions. As many as a hundred of these so-called tronies are known.

William Hunter bequest, 1783

Peter Paul Rubens, Head of a Bearded Man in Profile to the Right, Pen and brown ink, heightened with white.Peter Paul Rubens
Head of a Bearded Man in Profile to the Right
Pen and brown ink, heightened with white

Acquired to represent Rubens in The Hunterian collection as a draughtsman as well as painter, this drawing was made as an exercise. It was originally part of a sheet with several studies, from memory, recreating the heads of study panels like The Hunterian’s. Rubens’ drawings were not made for public viewing. After his death, his drawings were eventually released onto the market, their original functions forgotten, as precious examples of the master’s hand.

Purchased, with NFA and Art Fund support, 2004

Alison Watt, Head of a Young Woman, Pastel on brown paper, 1994.Alison Watt
Head of a Young Woman
Pastel on brown paper

A west of Scotland collector encouraged us to acquire a work by Alison Watt, a leading painter who was then not represented in the collection. This early work reflects Watt’s interest in the practices of old masters such as Rubens, whose head study was the focus of Hunterian research in the years 2004–2013. Like Rubens, Watt made such studies with the idea of incorporating them into figure compositions.

Purchased, with support from the NFA, a west of Scotland collector and the Johnstone Sisters Fund, 2013

Unknown painter after Maarten de Vos, The Elders Accusing Susanna of Adultery, Oil on panel, c. 1590–1600.Unknown painter after Maarten de Vos
The Elders Accusing Susanna of Adultery
Oil on panel
c. 1590–1600

This painting, although presented in the 1960s, remained unidentified until 2009. A Woodmansterne Art Conservation Grant allowed technical examination by experts and students and provision of a new frame. The panel was dated by dendrochronology and the students identified an engraving of the 1570s that had been copied by the painter. Antwerp had a thriving art market, and second rank painters worked in this way, basing their compositions on popular Biblical engravings.

Presented by Professor Alan Boase, 1964

Jan Harmensz Muller after Hendrick Goltzius, Venus and Cupid, Engraving, c. 1588–1600.Jan Harmensz Muller after Hendrick Goltzius
Venus and Cupid
c. 1588–1600

This print has a pencilled attribution to Hendrick Goltzius, who certainly designed the image. Since no other museum has an impression, it seems possible that this is a unique work by an artist close to Goltzius. It was exhibited in Picturing Venus (2014) as a unique work, most likely by Jan Muller, who specialised in making, for princely collectors, unique impressions of virtuoso, unfinished engravings; a proposal that scholars have accepted.

W.R. Scott bequest, 1940

Questions of Attribution

A Curator's Choice exhibition galleryQuestions of Attribution

Acquisitions often go hand-in-hand with research on collections. In this section, recent acquisitions are juxtaposed with works of art that were investigated in partnership with Hunterian and Technical Art History colleagues and students.

As curator, Peter led research into Dutch and Flemish art that resulted in the 2012 exhibition Rembrandt and the Passion. His research into the attribution of Rubens’ Head of an Old Man led to the acquisition of two important study drawings. Similarly, his research into William Hunter’s collections, especially Hunter’s relationship with Hogarth, prepared us for the opportunity to buy an unrecognized early wall painting by the artist, which is one of the most significant acquisitions of recent years.

Collaboration was an essential element in the publication of attributions. The drawings by Benjamin West and J.M.W. Turner were published in articles written by Elizabeth Jacklin, who supported Peter as intern from 2011 to 2012.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bacharach and Burg Stahleck, Bodycolour and watercolour, 1817.Joseph Mallord William Turner
Bacharach and Burg Stahleck
Bodycolour and watercolour

This watercolour, which was documented from Turner’s Rhine journey of 1817, was the prize possession of the donor James McCallum, but doubt lingered about its attribution. Hunterian intern Elizabeth Jacklin went on to work for the Turner collection at Tate in 2012, and she proposed mounting an exhibition to re-establish the work’s reputation. With Hunterian curator Peter Black, she wrote an article for Turner Society News, publishing its unbroken provenance back to Turner.

McCallum bequest, 1948

Benjamin West, Study for Pharaoh and His Host Lost in the Red Sea, Pencil, ink and wash, drawing, pen and black ink over pencil, 1790–1792.Benjamin West
Study for Pharaoh and His Host Lost in the Red Sea
Pencil, ink and wash, drawing, pen and black ink over pencil

This study for the Royal Chapel at Windsor, by King George III’s favourite painter, was purchased as an example of the work of a Royal Academician closely associated with William Hunter. Hunter only collected drawings of anatomical subjects but he played an important role in Royal Academy teaching, in which drawing was central. West’s drawing is strongly influenced by Rubens, one of the great masters represented in Hunter’s collection.

Purchased, with NFA and Art Fund support, 2007

William Hogarth, Hudibras Triumphant, Oil on domestic wood panelling, c. 1720.William Hogarth
Hudibras Triumphant
Oil on domestic wood panelling
c. 1720

This is probably the earliest known painting by Hogarth. The attribution (British Art Journal, XVII, 1, 2016) depends on the relationship to engravings by Hogarth illustrating Butler’s mock epic, Hudibras. The panel must originally have formed part of an interior with wainscot panelling, painted with twelve or more scenes from Hudibras. The painting dates from the period when Hogarth was struggling to rise above jobbing engraving and establish himself as an artist.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2013

William Hogarth, Hudibras Triumphant, Engraving, 1726.William Hogarth
Hudibras Triumphant

The twelve plates illustrating Hudibras were Hogarth’s first independent set of prints and they were designed to profit from the extraordinary popularity of Butler’s anti-puritan poem (1663–1678), which remained in print until the end of the 18th century. This engraving plays a crucial role in the attribution of the painting, which illustrates the same subject. Differences, such as the horse and background building, indicate that the engraving post-dates the painting.

Presented by Peter Black, 2019

John Bell after William Hogarth, The Reward of Cruelty, Woodcut, 1750.John Bell after William Hogarth
The Reward of Cruelty

Hogarth planned his Four Stages of Cruelty as woodcuts. Because woodcuts were cheaper to produce, Hogarth believed that his prints would be seen (and bought!) by more people than if he published them as engravings. In the end only two woodcuts were produced and the series was engraved. This rare work was purchased because of William Hunter’s friendship with Hogarth: it is said that Hunter is the man wielding the knife.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2005

Strengths of the Print Collection

A Curator's Choice exhibition galleryStrengths of the Print Collection

Prints rather than drawings are the main strength of the works on paper collection. In 1949, Andrew McLaren Young (1913–1975) became the first Hunterian curator of a print collection which had recently been assembled for teaching. Holdings were strongest in Old Masters 1460–1700, prints by J.M.W. Turner, James McNeill Whistler and British artists 1880–1930. Using the fund bequeathed by James McCallum (1862–1948), Young wisely bought, at the time, unfashionable modernist, especially German Expressionist works. While prints were relatively cheap then, they no longer are. Strange as it may sound, unique drawings are now often better value than prints and this mundane fact has in recent years stimulated the purchase of fine drawings.

This selection presents acquisitions that were stimulated by research into various collection areas. A number of Dutch and Flemish prints were acquired in connection with research on Rubens and Rembrandt; purchases of Italian 16th-century prints (a major collection strength) supported research for the exhibitions Picturing Venus in 2014 and Renaissance Prints in 2016.

Adolph Menzel, Der Grosse Totenkopfhusar, Drypoint, 1846.Adolph Menzel
Der Grosse Totenkopfhusar

The ‘Death’s-head Hussars’ were the crack troops of the Prussian army, which Menzel documented in a publication commissioned by Frederick the Great. This rare separate print was acquired to improve representation of one of the greatest of all graphic artists. Menzel was a major historical painter, but late in life he also made remarkable Impressionist landscape drawings as well as prints, especially lithographs, in which he displays astonishing technical mastery.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2002

Diana Mantovana, Amphion and Zethus Tying Dirce to a Wild Bull (The Farnese Bull), Engraving, 1581.Diana Mantovana
Amphion and Zethus Tying Dirce to a Wild Bull (The Farnese Bull)

Sculpture from the ancient world was an important focus for printmakers in 16th-century Rome. The marbles were widely studied as examples of great art, stimulating demand for such engravings. This large and complex sculpture, which was then believed to be one of the greatest works from ancient times, was found in Rome in 1545, and is now in Naples. The print was acquired to extend our holdings of this early woman engraver.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2002

Karel du Jardin, Two Mules, Etching, c. 1650.Karel du Jardin
Two Mules
c. 1650

This is a particularly fine impression of a well known print, and was acquired during research on Dutch and Flemish art. Du Jardin specialized in Italianate landscapes, bathed in warm light. Like other 17th-century Dutch painters, he made etchings of favourite motifs to earn extra money by selling to painter colleagues. These pack animals, with distinctive tree branches attached to their saddles to deter flies, appear in several of Du Jardin’s paintings.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2004

James Gillray, A Cognocenti Examining ye Beauties of ye Antique, Etching, with original hand colour, 1801.James Gillray
A Cognocenti Examining ye Beauties of ye Antique
Etching, with original hand colour

This famous image of the elderly diplomat Sir William Hamilton, looking at his collection on show at Christie’s, was purchased because of his links with William Hunter. Hamilton was an important donor, giving an album of anatomical drawings by Pietro da Cortona. Gillray cruelly derides the objects offered for sale, alluding through them, and the prints on the wall behind, to the exotic love life of his wife, Lady Hamilton.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2016

Charles Meryon, La Morgue, Etching and drypoint, 1854.Charles Meryon
La Morgue
Etching and drypoint

In the early 20th century, when the full impact of Whistler’s influence on printmaking was still being felt, his Parisian predecessor Meryon was exalted as one of the greatest printmakers. His etchings are remarkable for their treatment of the old Paris architecture which Meryon sought to preserve through his prints. La Morgue, with its miniature scene of a drowned man pulled from the Seine, is one of his finest works.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2019

Engaging with Artists

A Curator's Choice exhibition galleryEngaging with Artists

Works of art can be brought to life by getting to know the artists and finding out about their work. Some of the artists included here were people that Peter Black worked with in the first part of his career. As a freelance curator, he organised exhibitions, wrote about the artists and ensured that their works were acquired by museums. His first major publication was the catalogue raisonné of prints by S.W. Hayter, who was the most influential figure in modernist printmaking. Through meeting the Austrian expressionist Marie-Louise von Motesiczky in London, Peter got to know the work of artists who fled Europe under Nazi domination and developed an interest in Expressionism that led to the 2019 German Revolution exhibition. In Glasgow his commitment to living artists led to a friendship with Philip Reeves, who was the major figure in modernist printmaking in Scotland. Peter organised The Hunterian’s retrospective for Reeves in 2002 and acquired a large group of his prints for the collection.

 Milein Cosman, The Painter Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, Conté, 1993.Milein Cosman
The Painter Marie-Louise von Motesiczky

Cosman escaped from Germany in 1939 and studied at the Slade in Oxford. She emigrated to Britain because her brother Cornelius had studied at Glasgow. Cosman and Motesiczky were friends and lived very close to one another in London. While Motesiczky worked very slowly, Cosman was prolific, and specialised in working for journals such as the Radio Times, in which her musician drawings were famous.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2002

 Craig McPherson, Yankee Stadium at Night, Mezzotint engraving, 1983. Craig McPherson
Yankee Stadium at Night
Mezzotint engraving

The New York painter and printmaker Craig McPherson had his first museum retrospective in 1998 at the Fitzwilliam Museum, which then travelled to The Hunterian. Curator Peter Black saw the exhibition in Cambridge, and after joining The Hunterian later that year he set about making his first acquisition with this print, which was one of the masterpieces of the show. The tonal medium ideally suits McPherson’s nocturnal subject matter.

Purchased, with NFA support, 1999

Stanley William Hayter, Pelagic Forms, Deep etching, intaglio alkali blue, contact fluorescent yellow, soft roller monocal blue, 1963. Stanley William Hayter
Pelagic Forms
Deep etching, intaglio alkali blue, contact fluorescent yellow, soft roller monocal blue

Peter Black’s first significant publication was the catalogue raisonné of Hayter’s prints. As curator for The Hunterian he acquired works by Hayter mainly from 1930 to 1950. This print belonged to a retired Glasgow professor of History of Art, with whom Peter corresponded. ‘Pelagic’ means connected with the sea. It is one of several abstract images of the early 1960s exploiting spattered resin varnish to create effects of water in motion.

Professor Ronald Pickvance bequest, 2017

 Ian Westacott, Descending Trees – Elm, Etching, 2017.Ian Westacott
Descending Trees – Elm

Ian Westacott was commissioned to etch some of the last surviving Elm trees, at Cromarty in northern Scotland. Colleagues who saw his exhibition at the Cromarty Arts Trust impressed on curator Peter Black how beautiful Westacott’s prints were and a group was sent down to The Hunterian. Westacott sensed that, in recording these ancient trees, he was joining a tradition of British artists that went back to Constable and M.E. Cotman.

Purchased, from the Johnstone Sisters Fund, 2018

Victoria Burge, The Night was a Scaffold, Laser-cut plexiglass, printed in relief; white crayon, 2014.Victoria Burge
The Night was a Scaffold
Laser-cut plexiglass, printed in relief; white crayon

One of the most remarkable printmakers to emerge in recent years is Victoria Burge, whose imagery is inspired by networks of lines and points found in scientific diagrams and maps. This image, evocative of the night sky, was printed from a plexiglass plate into which shapes were cut by a laser. The plate was printed in relief like a woodcut, and the white lines were drawn afterwards in crayon.

Purchased, with NFA support, 2016

Supporters and Donors

A Curator's Choice exhibition gallerySupporters and Donors

The Hunterian has limited funds to buy art as it is not allowed to use core funding for this purpose. Using money from some of our endowments as a lever, these can be supplemented by grants from the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Art Fund, and occasionally other organisations. Most of these acquisitions have been supported by NFA and/or Art Fund grants, and we gratefully acknowledge their support.

The greatest works, however, are rarely purchased, but donated or bequeathed. The list of our most important pictures is still dominated by William Hunter’s bequest of 1783. In intervening years, however, there have been other impressive gifts and bequests, including major paintings received from the Government in lieu of tax. The Hunterian has a growing network of private collectors and supporters, and part of the curator’s job is to engage with them and help with decisions about preserving their collections.

Our thanks go first to our major donors, the Art Fund, National Fund for Acquisitions, Patricia Johnstone Jackson and Fiona Hope Johnstone, the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust and The Hunterian Friends. Most recently, we were delighted to accept a significant gift of works from the New York collection of Phillip A Bruno. Individual donors are named on the object labels, but some wish to remain anonymous. And there are others whose gifts we have been unable to include on this occasion. To them all we say thank you!


Lucian Freud, After Chardin, Etching, 1998.Lucian Freud
After Chardin

This is one of the most important prints acquired recently, providing only a second work by Freud, who was a major post-war artist. Its appeal was its subject matter, inspired by Chardin when Freud was artist in residence at the National Gallery in London. Freud worked on etchings at his easel, as if painting, and the scale of this print is close to that of the painting that stimulated it.

Purchased, with NFA and Art Fund support, 2001

 William Gear, Paysage Mystérieux, Oil on canvas, 1947.William Gear
Paysage Mystérieux
Oil on canvas

This lyrical landscape was painted by Gear in Paris just before he joined the experimental abstract group CoBrA, abandoning representation altogether: The Hunterian’s Interior with Sculpture (1954) is a fine example. The gift of this early work allows us to demonstrate the involvement of Scottish painters in the development of avant-garde European painting.

Presented by a west of Scotland collector, 2007

Cecil Collins, The Man with the Lamp, Oil on canvas, 1943.Cecil Collins
The Man with the Lamp
Oil on canvas

Collins was a visionary painter and printmaker, whose work focuses on defending ‘poetic imagination, Art, and Religion’, the spiritual elements of human existence which he saw as outlawed by modern society. These wartime paintings are pendants: they are not portraits, but nostalgic poetical statements about the creativity of the artist and of his sculptor wife Elisabeth Ramsden, who bequeathed these works to the Art Fund, through whom they were acquired.

Presented by Elisabeth Collins, through the Art Fund, 2001

Cecil Collins, The Musician, Oil on canvas, 1943.Cecil Collins
The Musician
Oil on canvas

Collins' paintings tend to have a very personal meaning, often bound up with the artist's creativity. This painting has a pair, The Man with the Lamp, in which the man receiving inspiration from the lamp probably stands for the artist, though is not intended as a portrait in the ordinary meaning. The musician in this painting is thought to represent Collins's wife Elisabeth, who was also an artist.

Presented by Elisabeth Collins, through the Art Fund, 2001

 Ken Currie, Fragment, Monotype, 2015.Ken Currie

Currie is one of the ‘New Glasgow Boys’. He was not represented in the collection at the time of his 2015 Glasgow Print Studio exhibition. This work was chosen at the suggestion of, and funded by, a friend of The Hunterian. Monotypes are unique, made by painting ink on to a plate and printing by contact. The sombre image is inspired by the lifelike funerary portraits from Fayum in Roman Egypt.

Purchased, with support from a west of Scotland collector, 2015