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Sir William Burrell

(1861—1958) art collector


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(b Glasgow, 9 July 1861; d Hutton Castle, nr. Berwick-upon-Tweed, 29 Mar. 1958).

Scottish art collector. He made an immense fortune from the family shipping business, from which he more or less retired in 1916 to devote himself to collecting, which had been his passion since boyhood (he is said to have once annoyed his father by spending his pocket money on a picture rather than a cricket bat). His interests were extremely diverse, but his collection became particularly strong in medieval art and in 19th-century French painting. Burrell eventually amassed 8,000 objects, which he presented to the City of Glasgow in 1944, followed by the sum of £450,000 to build a new museum to house them. Because he was worried about air pollution, he stipulated that the museum should be located several miles outside the city centre, and it was not until 1967, when Pollok Country Park was presented to the city, that a suitable site was available. The Burell Collection opened there in 1983 in an impressive new building by the British architect Barry Gasson; externally it is mainly of glass and steel, but inside stone predominates and fragments of medieval buildings collected by Burrell are sensitively incorporated into the structure. In the period since Burrell's death, most of his collection had been in storage, giving it something of a legendary reputation as a hidden treasure trove, and after the museum's keenly awaited opening it soon became one of the most popular artistic attractions in Britain. Burrell also gave paintings to the Museum and Art Gallery at Berwick-upon-Tweed; in his later years he lived nearby at Hutton Castle (three rooms from the castle have been reconstructed within the Burrell Collection, complete with their furniture and fittings).

Subjects: Art.


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