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Edinburgh Museums: National Gallery/Portrait Gallery

It’s a difficult question for a national museum as to whether it should showcase national art or collect masterpieces from beyond the borders.

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, whilst showing its Turners, was weighted towards Italian Renaissance and French Art.

The northern renaissance – except for The Arnolfini Marriage (Jan van Eyck) – was largely ignored.

Scotland’s National Gallery leans heavily towards its own artists and pictures of the country like Landseer’s famous Monarch of the Glen.

There were the Scottish Impressionists, like Peplow and the Glasgow Boys, but I cannot rate them as Premier League painters.

I also wonder if well-connected dealers were aware of hidden gems and purchased an aristocratic estate’s art collection outright.

Another practice was to buy up all the works of a prize-winner at Glasgow’s prestigious College of Art, put one of them out to auction, then arrange a high bid for it which tends to enhance the value of those retained by the dealer.

This said, there were some important, if not first rate, continental works from – amongst others – Peter Paul Hobbema, Rubens, Verrochio, Veronese, Claude, Poussin,  El Greco and Sickert, so it was worth a visit.

I preferred the Scottish Portrait Gallery.

On the first floor there was a photographic exhibition dedicated to the census and diversity.

I breezed around it in 2 minutes.

However, there is a vaulted gothic atrium with a portrait of main funder John Richie Findlay.

Best of all is the second floor.

The Portraits here reflect and represent Scottish history and achievers.

Some of the great portraitist like Reynolds and Singer Sergeant have their studies here.

Finally, and for good order, I should mention that time prevented me from seeing the respected Museum of Modern Art,

It at least that gives me a reason to return.

When I do I can take in A Taste of Impressionism: from Millet to Matisse exhibition which opens on July 30th at the Scottish Royal Academy opposite the National Gallery.

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About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts