Kelvingrove Gallery and Art Museum in Glasgow

Nestled in the West end of Glasgow is the red sandstone of the Kelvingrove Gallery and Art Museum. Drawing art lovers from across the world, it is easiest found on a city tour bus, which stop right outside.

When one thinks of art galleries in Glasgow, the vision that inevitably forms is of Kelvingrove. It has little competition in terms of the size and variety of its collection in the city.

Kelvingrove is one of the top museums and art galleries in Scotland, in terms of number of visitors. The reason for this is very simple, it is probably the best one in the country. The exhibitions that take place here and the collections on display are quite splendid.


Recent History at the Kelvingrove

The first task of any visitor or art aficionado is to find the entrance. There are two of these. The main entrance is in Kelvingrove Park. This is what you might think is the rear of the building. The back entrance, which we have pictures of here, is the most used as it is closest to the road. Between spring 2003 and summer 2006 the museum was closed for renovations. Upon its restoration and reopening, more exhibit space was created. The result is simply wonderful. It would definitely be worth coming back to see these enhancements if you missed them.

Picture of an exhibition at Kelvingrove

Archibald McLellan gives to Glasgow

The origin of most art collections and museums is often a single individual, someone who loved art passionately and collected it assiduously. In the case of the Kelvingrove, we must thank Archibald McLellan. He was a wealthy coach builder, who died in 1854. He bequeathed not only his 400 paintings but also his house to the city. By the 1870s, the collection had grown so much that a new location had to be found.

The Building of the New Gallery

The Kelvingrove Park, in which the building now resides, was the first and only choice for the new Art Gallery. Reasons included it being isolated, yet having good access to it. Its move was postponed, because the 1888 International Exhibition was held in the old house. Its success generated the necessary funds for the construction of the new museum and another International Exhibition was held in 1901 to officially open it.

Architects of Kelvingrove

The building was created initially through an open competition in 1892. The winners were John Simpson and E. J. Milner Allen. The main goal of the building was to house the cities art collections. Another requirement of the design was that the building had to be fireproof. The city wanted to preserve its precious art collection.


Anyone who has visited Santiago de Compostela might recognize something in the design. It is best described as Spanish Baroque. Yet, one cant help but get a feeling of the Chateaux at Versailles on entering the main hall. The curved ceiling with pleasant decoration and the organ at the end looks similar to the chapel there. The chandeliers that hang down are reminiscent of the hall of mirrors. These are only personal impressions. You have to see it for yourself to make your own mind up.

The Collection

The principal component of McLellan's collection was Glasgow's Old Masters. To this wonder has been added French Impressionists and Scottish Colourists. Arguably, the most famous painting is Salvador Dali's "Christ of Saint John of the Cross" bought in 1952 during what many people consider to be a high point of Kelvingrove's development as a museum. We will let you go find it on your own.

One of Van Gogh's paintings, a portrait of Alexander Reid, was purchased in 1974. The galleries were reorganized in the late 1990s and again during the closure of the museum. The focus on creating wide spaces for visitors pushed many offices to the basement.

Organ Music in Glasgow

Although it is surely one of the main reasons to visit, visual art is not the only thing to come to Kelvingrove for. You will find on the right day, check for details, that regular organ recitals are held. Standing above the rear entrance, the organ was built in 1901.

Picture of Kelvingrove inside the main hall and organ

Saturdays and Sundays are the best days. A regular treat is the children's drawing competition, which has not missed a sitting since it first began in 1904; the Picasso's and Monet's of the future can be found here. Who knows, he or she could be someone you know.