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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum comes under the heading, ‘Not to be missed in Glasgow’. A Spitfire rubs shoulders (or undercarriage/trunk) with Sir Roger the elephant; there’s a stuffed eagle (and other animals), lumps of rock (aka ‘geology’), ancient Egyptian coffins, suits of armour, guns, Charles Rennie Mackintosh bits, fearsome dinosaurs – and loads and loads of art.
Kelvingrove is something of a treasure chest – a real eclectic mix. Here is one of many examples of world-class culture available across Britain outside London and Edinburgh. Situated in Glasgow’s attractive West End, it opened in 1901 as part of the City’s International Exhibition, and has been the permanent home for its collections since 1902 – though Glasgow does boast some other splendid museums too, not least the Burrell Collection and the Riverside. But Kelvingrove is claimed by some to be one of the most visited tourist attractions in Scotland – and I can well believe it. There really is something for everyone – or most people, anyway. Even more impressive, Culture and Sport Glasgow (who run this and other venues) have determined that entry is free, whether you’re a local or just visiting. What a privilege to be able to pop into a collection like this as often as you like; how wonderful that this resource is on the doorstep for so many people, especially youngsters, who otherwise might believe that nothing exists beyond Celtic or Rangers football clubs…
So far as artwork is concerned, you do not require a PhD in Pretension to appreciate most of the collection at Kelvingrove. I didn’t spot a single unmade bed or dissected body. There is plenty of beautiful art that even philistines like me can appreciate. There are wonderful sculptures, like ‘Motherless’ (George Anderson Lawson 1832 -1904), an incredibly moving depiction of a father sitting in a chair cradling his child. There are paintings by Monet, Renoir and the ‘Glasgow Boys’ – brilliant stuff, with stories leaping out of the canvasses. And, perhaps the crowning glory, Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, painted in 1951 and controversially purchased by the City of Glasgow, thanks to the Director of Glasgow Museums at the time, Tom Honeyman.
The building itself is a late Victorian Gothic wedding-cake structure in pink-red sandstone: remarkable enough on the outside, but Kelvingrove’s interior is quite breathtaking. It has been described by other, far better qualified people, as ‘Spanish Baroque.’ Well, I found it just astonishing, with lovely stone balustrades and little fancy bits of architectural frippery all over the place. There’s a massive organ at one end too – recitals are a frequent occurrence and it is an experience to have this music wash over you as you wander around.
You might hear, by the way, that the museum was built the wrong way round and that the architect leapt from one of the towers in despair as a result. Apparently, this is an urban myth: the main entrance was always intended to be from Kelvingrove Park, where there is a statue of St Kentigern (St Mungo) – considered to be the founder of Glasgow – but most folk come at it from the back door on Argyle Street.
And the Spitfire? – this is a Mark 21, built in 1944, in service with 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron from 1947 to 1949.
As usual, hover your cursor over the images for some sort of explanation to appear (unfortunately, this does not work with some mobile devices).
Kelvingrove and other Glasgow attractions will be found in the Attraction Directory.