Finding Treasures in Kelvingrove in Glasgow

Spread the love

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Standing majestically in the middle of lush greenery, the red-stone Kelvingrove Museum looks like a museum.  It opened in 1901 and and was refurbished in 2006, displaying its wide and varied collection thematically.  There are sections on stuffed animals, paintings, the Egyptians, Mackintosh… in short, it’s almost like an enlarged cabinet of curiosities, with a few really spectacular items along the way.

The Glasgow Boys

The first section we entered was on the Glasgow Boys.  This term was new to me, and refers to a group of painters who were influenced by Whistler and French realism and were all for painting real people in real places.  They were a loose collective of about twenty members, and the works of some of the main exponents are on display in the gallery.

I was very taken by Guthrie’s atmospheric work, and by Lavery’s scenes, more than by his style.  These local painters themselves soon became influential and it is significant that they were able to flourish during a period when Glasgow itself was flourishing, and that they documented their city – and their nation – by highlighting interesting and thought-provoking aspects of daily life.


In one gallery 18th century clothes shared the space with cars, for some reason.  The dresses were stunning, and beautifully made, while the men’s waistcoats had such intricate embroidery that it’s crazy to think someone actually sat there and made them.


Charles Rennie Mackintosh

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with Mackintosh – and it’s not his fault.  There used to be a shop in England called Past Times which sold things that were inspired by museum collections and artistic styles past.  Mackintosh had the distinction of, I think, always having a range on sale, season after season.  I hated what they sold.  And when I briefly worked in the shop during the pre-Christmas season, I hated him even more.

Fortunately, that’s a long time ago now, and I was hoping that seeing some of Mackintosh’s work in person might help erase the memories of Past Times tat.  And it did!  Yay!

I have decided that the problem with Mackintosh is that photographs can’t do him justice.  The modernity of his designs and the more novel aspects of his work don’t transfer well to 2D – they need to be experienced.  He was so influential that you almost take aspects of his design for granted, forgetting that his style was both highly original and strikingly modern.  He made a unique contribution to what became the Art Nouveau style.

The works on display in Kelvingrove were created by Mackintosh for the fascinating Miss Catherine Cranston.  Miss Cranston opened up her first tearooms in the city as ‘C Cranston’, which not only hid the fact that she was a woman, but also got her listed above her brother in the post office directory.  Her brother, Stuart Cranston, was a tea-dealer who had started serving tea in his shop, where he’d put a few tables and chairs.  The idea really caught on, and the Cranstons soon became business rivals.  Catherine eventually had four of the largest tearooms in the city, and made a point of having each one decorated in its own unique way.

Mackintosh formed the perfect business relationship with Miss Cranston as he exclusively designed her tearooms from 1900 onwards.  He was given considerable artistic freedom, and in return she got to be too, too chic.

Random Objects from around the Museum


There are painting scattered in various galleries around the museum, but for thematic convenience, I’m putting them together to give a general overview of what’s on show.

When I saw the next painting from a distance, I thought this was a Rembrandt too, but no.  It’s actually by one of his students, Govaert Flinck.  Rembrandt is known to have had many students who were trained up in his style and then helped the master to produce a steady stream of work.  Flinck was one of his best students, and went on to have a distinguished career of his own.  I absolutely loved this self-portrait – from the softness of the painting style, to the colours, and the serious little expression on his face.

So In Summary

There were lots of interesting and beautiful items on show at Kelvingrove.  Yet perhaps because I’d visited the Edinburgh National Museum a few days before, and I’d expected Kelvingrove to be its equal, I have to admit I felt somewhat underwhelmed by the arrangements and displays.  I also didn’t like some of the curation, and thought the rooms had the air of being renovated earlier than 2006.  I think what I’m trying to say is that I felt the museum didn’t quite do justice to the often wonderful objects in its collection.  However, I’ve seen that Kelvingrove is one of the most popular museums in the whole of the UK, so clearly I’m in a minority here.  But don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed it, I’d just hoped I would love it.

Further Information

The museum has a shared website with other free city-run institutions – it has all the information you need to plan a visit, but not much more:

It’s also nice that the massive organ in the main hall of the museum is used daily.  It felt a little like we were at the seaside and some of the organist’s music choices were… unusual, but it was fun.  In a way this unexpected recital reflected the somewhat odd eclecticism of Kelvingrove itself.

How To Get There

Local transport information is available here: while information on how to get to Glasgow via train is available via: 








No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: