New research into Glasgow Museums' Collections

  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Argyle Street Glasgow United Kingdom

Programme: Morning

New research into Glasgow Museums, Vivien Hamilton, Research Manager (Art), Glasgow Museums

Vivien is part of Glasgow Museum’s research department. She manages various research projects including the Burrell Tapestry project, which is working with two international scholars to research and publish a scholarly catalogue and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Burrell Trustees. She co-supervises a Collaborative Doctoral Award student with the University of York, researching the international trade in stained glass in relation to Sir William Burrell’s collection.

Marie Stumpf, Senior Conservator, has been awarded a Fellowship from the Clothworkers Guild to research and conserve the Boppard glass at the Burrell Collection. Further research about the collection has been conducted by interns and placement students.

With regard to the European paintings pre-1900, the collection has been researched for the National Inventory Research Project, and individual curators have produced research such as Robert Wenley’s work on the Dutch 17th century paintings, and Vivien’s ongoing research about the French 19th-century paintings at Kelvingrove and the Burrell Collection.

A Collaborative Doctoral Award student researched the 19th-century Dutch paintings, but she now has a full-time job and might not be able to finish the project. The co-publication of ‘Glasgow Museums: The Italian paintings’ by Unicorn Press (see Peter Humfrey’s afternoon talk) is a major outcome, and Unicorn will also publish Vivien’s work on the tapestries.

Research on the donors of paintings to Glasgow Museum, Dr Frances Dryburgh, Volunteer, Glasgow Museums

Vivien Hamilton set up a group of volunteers, often drawn from Glasgow Museums’s volunteer guide group, to research the lesser-known donors of art to Glasgow Museums.

The group consists around 14 people, from a variety of occupations, including a scientist, teacher, historian, librarian, accountant, and lawyer. They meet regularly and so far have researched 120 donors, and around 300 paintings.

In the question and answer discussion, Frances explained that the group follow a rigorous procedure for recording the documentation. She gave a case study which showed how she has used the various research resources in Glasgow to find out more about a donor of paintings called Mrs Lindsay, and further information about the collector Sir Claude Phillips.

Conserving Glasgow’s Italian paintings, Polly Smith, Senior Conservator (Art Group) Glasgow Museums

Polly explained that preparing the works for ’The Essence of Beauty: 500 Years of Italian Art’ has been a major project since 2008. It involved preparing 46 paintings for the exhibition in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a tour to Compton Verney, and then a tour of several American museums, and preparing technical notes on 150 paintings for the catalogue. The department also had to work on all the other Glasgow Museum exhibitions across its 10 venues, but received some funding from Museums Galleries Scotland for a one-year freelance contract.

Polly also explained that the work that needed the greatest treatment was the ‘Adoration of the Magi', by an unkown Neapolitan artist which had not been on public display for over 25 years because of its poor condition. Treatment involved the removal of aged varnish and discoloured retouching, consolidation of flaking paint, filling of losses and modification of restored pastiligia, and finally extensive retouching. A timelapse film of the conservation work is on display next to the painting in the exhibition.

Suzanne Ross, Painting Conservator, summarised the technical examination techniques employed throughout the project and the use of historical records to help with conservation decisions. She described several treatments that she has undertaken, representing structural work to canvas supports, consolidation, varnish removal, filling, and retouching.

Sophie Kostin, Frame Conservator, explained that she had worked on around 40 frames. Treatments included the replacement of missing ornament, cleaning, regilding, and toning. All the frames are fitted with specialist glazing and backboards to protect the paintings during the tour.

New reproduction late 15th-century tabernacle frames were commissioned for two major Renaissance paintings: Botticelli’s ‘Annunication’ and Bellini’s ‘Madonna and Child’. In response to a question, Sophie explained that the original frames are kept in storage as they represent part of the history of the painting.

Programme: Afternoon

Cataloguing Glasgow’s Italian paintings, Professor Peter Humfrey, University of St Andrews

Peter explained that the catalogue was published by Unicorn Press, who had already published catalogues of the paintings in the Wallace Collection and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

It contains 150 catalogue entries covering a period from 1375 to 1875, and about 46 of the paintings are in the exhibition. There is an introduction essay about the foundation of the collection, with a particular focus on the donation by Archibald McLellan.

There have been several previous catalogues of the paintings – in 1935 and 1970 – but these editions had few images and there was a need for some re-attributions. Some of the Venetian paintings were shown in the National Galleries of Scotland’s ‘Age of Titian’ exhibition in 2004, which was very helpful.

Peter then looked at the issues regarding several paintings: the attribution to Titian for‘Christ and the Adulteress’, the subject of Lattanio Gambara’s fresco fragment, the placement of predella pictures including in Francesco Francia’s ‘Nativity’, the discussion about the possible artist and the iconography of the ‘Allegory of Vanitas’, and the subject matter of Pietro Aldi’s painting of an artist and nun.

All this information can be found in the catalogue. As Peter explained, he feels that the current catalogue is a foundation for further research into some of the topics, such as McLellan’s activities as a collector.

Conclusion

The study day ended with a visit to the temporary exhibition, ’The Essence of Beauty: 500 Years of Italian Art’.