From Townhouse to Castle: Sir William Burrell’s (1858-1961) collection at home

From Townhouse to Castle: Sir William Burrell’s (1858-1961) collection at home
12 Dec 2017, 18:00 to 12 Dec 2017, 20:00
IHR Pollard Seminar Room, N301, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Isobel MacDonald , University of Glasgow & The Burrell Collection, Glasgow

Isobel MacDonald , University of Glasgow & The Burrell Collection, Glasgow

In 1944 Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) bequeathed his entire collection to the city of Glasgow. With his gift came strict stipulations, one of which stated that his collection was to he housed in a stand-alone building. True to these conditions, today the Burrell Collection is exhibited in a purpose-built pavilion (1978-83) set within the grounds of Pollok Country Park, roughly four miles from Glasgow’s city centre. However, during the collector’s lifetime the collection was situated in an entirely different setting, or perhaps more accurately: settings. Indeed, at the time of the gift objects owned by Burrell could be found in thirty-three separate locations, including: art galleries, national museums, libraries and cathedrals. This paper concentrates on two related settings: 8 Great Western Terrace, Glasgow, and Hutton Castle, Berwick-upon-Tweed. These two locations were the Burrell family’s homes, the former bought by Burrell in 1901 and the latter in 1916 but inhabited from 1927. This paper assesses the significance of the domestic setting for Sir William’s collection. Not only does it analyse how Burrell displayed objects, but also his choice of objects for these private spaces. The paper also takes into close consideration the building styles; Great Western Terrace being a Glaswegian townhouse built by Alexander Greek Thomson in 1869 and Hutton Castle a late-medieval tower with sixteenth century additions. Using surviving images from Great Western Terrace and Hutton Castle, written sources from visitors to both of the homes and correspondence surrounding their renovation, this paper will consider the home as a space of display. Using discussions of collections and interiors by authors such as Susan M. Pearce and Diana Fuss, this paper analyses the significance of the objects that Sir William chose to live amongst, ultimately questioning what an assessment of the Burrell Collection “at home” tells us about its collector. Isobel Completed her MA at the University of Glasgow in 2014 and is currently engaged in research for: AHRC PhD Studentship (University of Glasgow & The Burrell Collection, Glasgow): ‘Sir William Burrell (1861-1958): the man and the collector’ (January 2016-December 2018) This is a collaborative project with Glasgow University and the Burrell Collection, which reassesses the collecting practice of Sir William Burrell (1861-1958). By taking a thematic approach to the Glaswegian mercantile collector, her thesis encompasses such questions as what affected Burrell’s interests in collecting, his motivations for collecting, the relationship between his business practice and his collecting practice, the significance of his collection within a late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century context, his relationship with artists and dealers, his relationship with his contemporary collectors both locally and internationally, and his involvement in the British art scene at the time. Please note: this session is on a Tuesday


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