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Scottish Art Reborn: The Transformation of National Galleries

The Scottish National Gallery Project - National Galleries of Scotland

The unveiling of the new Scottish Galleries symbolizes a transformative chapter in the portrayal of Scotland’s artistic legacy, reflecting the unrelenting efforts of Sir John Leighton, the esteemed director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, to augment the representation of historic Scottish art in Edinburgh’s National Gallery. This pivotal moment arises as Sir John Leighton anticipates his departure in 2024, leaving behind a significantly enriched platform.

Embodied Vision

Sir John Leighton’s longstanding vision finds embodiment in the Scottish Galleries, illuminating the illustrious history of Scottish art. Since his incumbency in 2006, a revitalized and more engaging presentation of historical Scottish art was Leighton’s fervent aspiration, a dream that is realized as he inches closer to concluding his noteworthy tenure.

Inaugural Elegance

Marking their opening on September 30, these galleries are sanctuaries to crucial national artworks. Presented in more refined and expansive settings, offering a refreshing interaction with the artwork, a significant enhancement from the previously cramped and shadowed displays. “It’s a revelation to witness these marvelous pieces exhibited with such elegance, offering a distinctive perspective,” Leighton remarks with evident pride and joy.

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Aesthetic Evolution

Not merely about the physical transformation, this endeavor extends to enriching the narrative of Scottish visual arts between 1800 and 1945. It draws numerous pieces from various revered galleries across Edinburgh, adding enticing colors and unique artistic styles, such as the Scottish Colourists’ works, to the assortment, allowing the galleries to narrate tales of specific periods and schools for the first time.

The display, however, maintains its essential essence, retaining iconic pieces like Sir Edwin Landseer’s “The Monarch Of The Glen,” symbolizing the dialectics of Scottish identity and romanticization, which continue to provoke thoughtful discussions and reflections.

Reflective Interchange

Leighton emphasizes the importance of exhibiting Scottish art in global contexts, hinting at the reciprocal influences between Scottish and international art. The evolved galleries aim to encourage contemplation of Scottish art within its historical scope, presenting an integrated vision of a pivotal time in Scottish art. “It’s a holistic depiction of a time when visual arts were gaining traction and establishing traditions as the 19th century unfolded,” he observes.

This endeavor, although centered in Edinburgh, is reflective of a national collection dispersed across Scotland. The Scottish Galleries endeavor to be a hub inspiring exploration into the enriched tapestry of Scottish visual arts culture spread across cities like Glasgow, Inverness, and Dundee.

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