Sunday, 6 March 2011

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

It seems a little unfair to have another article on Kelvingrove after I discussed the Spitfire for our Object of the Month, but there is so much more to Kelvingrove than that, and for those interested in military history, there are quite a number of items to be discovered.

This is not strictly speaking a review of Kelvingrove. I don't have the space to cover all the treasures on display. All I will say is that it houses perhaps the finest collection of art and artefacts in the country (Edinburgh folk may argue with this!).

I've touched on the Spitfire before so I won't dwell on it, but it is the most obviously military item in the museum, and is the focal point of the West Hall, which is devoted to "life" - all the animal items are here, together with ancient Egyptian artefacts.

The West hall also contains the Arms and Armour collection. This used to be on the ground floor, and contained a lot of items on local regiments, as you can see from the "red coats" on display in this photo.

This is how the hall looked before closing for refurbishment some years ago. It's a shame that these items are no longer displayed like this, but times change. Perhaps one day these items will make a return.

The Arms and Armour is now on display upstairs. The first thing you notice is a display of armour immediately facing you. The display looks good, but I can't help feeling the armour looks slightly "static" - perhaps some effort to show more movement would have been better?

The room is dominated by two large glass cases. These show various weapons - swords and shields etc. There is an interesting angle here as part of the display compares man-made weapons with similar items in nature - for example, contrasting the shell of an armadillo with some chainmail.

Around the walls are displays of various artefacts from colonial campaigns. There is no attempt to glorify these campaigns, and there is an interesting use of comments from the people of these civilisations, putting the campaigns of the time into context.

Colonial campaign medals - the map shows the location of the campaigns for which they were awarded.

One of my favourite cases shows the complete kit of a Private Baird of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from the Boer War.

As a Glasgow event, there are displays from the Battle of Langside, in particular this memorial stone which used to mark the point where Mary Queen of Scots viewed the battle. This stone was carved in 1854 by sir George Cathcart and used to stand at Court Knowe.

There are smaller "alcoves" in this room. One features a display on the Holocaust - part of the main room is devoted to this as well. A video display features video testimonies from Holocaust survivors.

A second alcove features items belonging to a Glasgow man named James Keith Gorrie, who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. His uniform is in the main case, with drawers containing smaller items which slide out on either side.

The Arms and Armour section is not the only part of the museum of interest to the military historian - there are other items to be found.

The Art Gallery part of the museum includes a number of military subjects. There are several paintings outside the Arms and Armour room which, as the display states, depict pictures of everyday wartime work:

"Pilot and Navigator Confer" - Keith Henderson

"Driver Abdul Ghani" - Henry Lamb

"WAAF Store" - Evelyn Dunbar

"Scottish Policeman" - James Cowie

There are a number of other paintings within the museum. One in particular is very impressive and can be found at the top of one of the staircases.

"The Alma: Forward the 42nd" was painted by Robert Gibb in 1888 and he used real soldiers as models for the subject. It's a fantastic painting - it's difficult to gauge the size of this painting, as it hangs above your head and you can only see it clearly from the top of the stairs. It keeps it out of reach but makes it difficult to see it properly.

Another of the staircases has a similarly large painting, and I include it here as it no doubt contains the images of a number of Victorian officers.

"Queen Victoria at the Glasgow Exhibition" was painted by John Lavery in 1888, and it was hit by a bomb blast in the Second World War - the original frame was destroyed but the canvas has been restored.

I'll be very impressed if anyone can name any of the figures in this painting - Queen Victoria doesn't count as even I can spot her.

There are a few other military subjects, but I wouldn't want to show you everything - Kelvingrove is well worth the visit and you can always find something new when you visit.

One thing you might spot is in the East Hall. Alongthe top of the hall are the names of prominent Scots from History. Among them are a number of military names:

William Wallace and Robert Bruce are no doubt well known to many.

While Sir John Moore has been the subject of this blog before.

The Art Gallery and Museum are free of charge and is open seven days a week (from 10am every day except Friday and Sunday when it opens at 11) until 5pm. Put it on your list of places you MUST see.

No comments:

Post a Comment