Arrangement in Racism and Black Injustice: Whistler’s Colour Theory

In 1873–74 James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) painted the portrait of Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881). Like Carlyle, Whistler was a confrontational figure, known for his defiant and acerbic temperament, who took on the art establishment in his provocative declarations and radically pared-down compositional arrangements. Challenging the very nature of portraiture, he claimed that colour harmony and pictorial balance were more important that the identity … Continue reading Arrangement in Racism and Black Injustice: Whistler’s Colour Theory

Thomas Carlyle, historian, writer, racist

Glasgow Museums has a number of portraits of the Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881). Most famous is the painting by American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), in which the so-called ‘Sage of Chelsea’ is depicted as a pictorial arrangement of form and colour. There are also three sculptural portraits: an 1874 plaster bust by Austrian-born Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834–1890); an 1889 bronze by … Continue reading Thomas Carlyle, historian, writer, racist

Inheritance and Privilege – Alexander Oswald of Changue

Among the many paintings in Glasgow Museums’ collection is a portrait by Andrew Geddes, of his friend, Alexander Oswald. Oswald was an advocate, or barrister, and landowner, and born into the Oswald family dynasty of merchants, MPs and propertied gentlemen.  The Oswalds had been established in Glasgow as colonial merchants and ship owners since the early 1700s and owned numerous estates including Scotstoun, Shieldhall, Moore … Continue reading Inheritance and Privilege – Alexander Oswald of Changue

Robert Nutter Campbell, country gent and slave owner

In Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum hangs Sir Henry Raeburn’s enormous double portrait of Robert Nutter Campbell and his wife, Margaret Montgomery. Mr and Mrs Campbell tower over the other museum exhibits in the gallery – the sheer scale of Raeburn’s painting, the glow of the sunlight reflected in the couple’s elegant clothes and their intense gazes were meant to make you take notice. The … Continue reading Robert Nutter Campbell, country gent and slave owner

Selling West Indian Sugar and Rum in Glasgow

The artist and the sitter’s identities for this unique portrait of a woman working in a grocery shop c. 1790 to 1825 in Glasgow Museum’s collections are as yet unknown and remain to be discovered. However, not all is lost because this portrait has attracted more attention in recent years, such as Professor Eleanor Gordon’s assessment of it in 2014 when she interpreted it in … Continue reading Selling West Indian Sugar and Rum in Glasgow

Mungo Murray, Darien and Slavery

Glasgow Museums recently acquired the painting A Highland Chieftain: Portrait of Lord Mungo Murray (c.1683) by Scottish-trained artist John Michael Wright (1617–1694) with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund, Friends of Glasgow Museums and National Fund for Acquisitions. At face value it is an exuberant celebration of Highland dress and cosmopolitan Gaelic culture, but it also has links to the transatlantic slave trade. … Continue reading Mungo Murray, Darien and Slavery

Lady Margaret Mackenzie speaks – life with the Glassfords

By 1783 John Glassford (1715 -1783) had been married three times. The last marriage was in 1768 to Lady Margaret Mackenzie.  It is Lady Mackenzie who is seated in the Glassford family portrait. What did she have to say about life with the Glassfords? Lady Margaret Mackenzie wrote to her Aunt, Lady Henrietta Dundas. She noted ‘I do not find any little jealousy’s in the … Continue reading Lady Margaret Mackenzie speaks – life with the Glassfords

John Robertson: Cash for a Cashier

As seen by his signature on this guinea bank note in Glasgow Museums’ collection John Robertson was the Cashier for the Glasgow Arms Banking Office in 1778. The Glasgow Arms Bank was originally established as Cochran Murdoch & Co. in 1750, changing to Speirs, Murdoch & Co in 1763. It later became Murdoch, Robertson & Co a few years after this bank note was issued … Continue reading John Robertson: Cash for a Cashier

Lady Jean Grant and Caribbean Slavery

In 1940 this portrait of Jean Duff, Lady Grant (1746-1805), painted by David Allan (1744-1796) in 1780 entered Glasgow Museums collections without any news coverage. The painting has been displayed in Kelvingrove since 2006 as an example of Scottish art and civility. The obituary written for her in 1805 praised her goodness and piety. She appears to have been as she appears in the painting … Continue reading Lady Jean Grant and Caribbean Slavery

John McCall and Family

In 1965 Glasgow Museums added this painting, called John McCall of Belvidere and family; Family Group known as the Dennistoun to its collections. Although the artist remains a mystery there are enough clues from the clothes that the McCall family are wearing to date the painting to the late 1760s. Unlike the Glassford portrait this does not feature a slave, but the McCall family, like … Continue reading John McCall and Family

The Black House

The ‘Black House’ deserved its name – it was built of stone from the Black Stone quarry, which was once between St George’s Road and North Woodside Road in northern Glasgow. This house represents one of the better known buildings made with stone from the quarry. It was built on the corner of Queen Street (Cow Lone) and Argyle Street (West Gait) for the McCall … Continue reading The Black House

The Navy and Slavery

One of the earliest ship models to enter the collection of Glasgow Museums was a fine model of HMS Oxford, made around 1727. It came from the collection of Robert Napier, known as the ‘father of Clyde shipbuilding’ and was presented shortly after his death in 1876 as an example of early naval ship design. However, beneath the beauty and intricacy of this model lies … Continue reading The Navy and Slavery

Glasgow Merchants’ Investment in Purple

The profits from Scottish-owned plantations in the West Indies that used enslaved men, women and children were returned to Scotland and invested in industries here rather than helping to develop their local Caribbean communities. One such area that profited was Glasgow’s burgeoning dye industry. Many purple dyes were traditionally made using lichen dyes which were much cheaper than the famous Tyrian or murex purple extracted … Continue reading Glasgow Merchants’ Investment in Purple

The earliest enslaved person in Glasgow?

In 1705, the Glaswegian businessman, John ‘Bass’ Spreull published an account of Scotland’s prospects for international trade. He suggested that Scotland should make appropriate trade links with the West Indies, Virginia, the Guinea coast and what he called the ‘Negroes Coast’, by which he probably meant West African countries such as Senegal where European countries had established a slave trade. Spreull promoted a trade of … Continue reading The earliest enslaved person in Glasgow?

Glasgow Museums Collection OG.1948.14.2

John Glassford’s Art Collection

John Glassford of Dougalston (1715 -1783) is famed for his success as a businessman, but few people know about his art collection. It was sold at auction at Christies on 23rd December 1786. The auction catalogue lists 139 paintings for sale. The collection was mostly made up of British, Dutch and French artists but there were also a few Italian paintings. He had three works … Continue reading John Glassford’s Art Collection

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John Glassford’s Family Portrait

When the portrait of the tobacco merchant John Glassford and his family was given to Glasgow Museums in 1950 not much was known about it, and a myth grew about a black slave boy who had been painted over to erase Glasgow’s association with the slave trade. In 2007 the painting was moved from the People’s Palace to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where conservation … Continue reading John Glassford’s Family Portrait

Glasgow Museums Collection TEMP.9384

The Luke of Claythorn family – silver, sugar and slavery

The Scottish Identity in Art gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum contains many wonderful objects, including silverware made by the Luke of Claythorn family. Claythorn is in today’s Calton, near the People’s Palace. Recent research on portraits of them in the museum stores has revealed a complicated family history. There are six portraits: three of John Luke, one of James Luke and one for … Continue reading The Luke of Claythorn family – silver, sugar and slavery

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Slave Cotton in Glasgow

When Glasgow Museums first acquired Robert Salmon’s painting of Glasgow Harbour in 1832 it was for the extraordinary representation of steamships. However research into the other ships has thrown up additional information that helps us to understand what is going on in the painting. The American ship on the left-hand side of the painting was originally thought to have been there simply to appeal to … Continue reading Slave Cotton in Glasgow

Glasgow Museums Collection E.1937.75.c.1

Enslaved Black Boys

The portrait of John Glassford and family in the People’s Palace Museum in Glasgow is the most famous portrait of one the city’s most successful tobacco merchants. It also attracts attention because of the rare image of the Glassford’s enslaved black boy. Glasgow Museums has never attempted to cover him up, but without knowing more about him what should he be called? What should similar … Continue reading Enslaved Black Boys

Glasgow Museums Collection PP.2016.38.2

A Marriage Bonded by Slavery

Living with the consequences of our actions is a condition of life. Proof of this in a very positive way is that Glasgow Museums is still benefiting from the How Glasgow Flourished exhibition at Kelvingrove in 2014. The Friends of Glasgow Museums supported this exhibition, and in 2016 also gave us a grant to purchase two Georgian wedding portraits. These were painted in 1752 by … Continue reading A Marriage Bonded by Slavery