National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-2.0. Author: Steve Houldsworth.

British Art Collections – Day 6 The National Gallery of Scotland

  • Wednesday 27 September 2023
  • Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD
  • Lecturer: Sarah Burles

During the summer of 2023 we are offering a series of linked but separate study days on British Art Collections. Each day can be booked individually. We also intend to include some small group visits to individual galleries. These will be organised separately and subject to demand.

This series of study days will examine the history of some of the UK’s greatest art institutions: what or who inspired their foundation, where their collections came from and how their buildings were designed. What audiences did the founders imagine and what ideas were they trying to impart – and how have those audiences and ideas changed through the years and for the modern era? Explore artworks and exhibitions, meet the personalities and discover the stories behind the façades of the nation’s collections from London to Edinburgh and from Liverpool to Cambridge.

Programme for Day 6

The National Gallery of Scotland

On 30 August 1850, Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of the National Gallery of Scotland and hailed William Henry Playfair’s building as a “temple erected to the Fine Arts”. Since then the gallery has expanded and grown, with the most recent project to create new galleries dedicated to Scottish art due to be completed this year. Benefactors such as the Duke of Sutherland and Sir Alexander and Rosalind Maitland helped bring important old master and nineteenth-century paintings to Edinburgh, while the opening of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1959, gave space for twentieth and twenty-first-century collections. This study day will bring Edinburgh to London through a series of lectures discussing the National Gallery’s history and highlights of the collection.


1        The Royal Institution and the National Gallery

2        A Home for Scottish Art

3        The Bridgwater Loan and the Maitland Bequest

4        Modern One and Two


 Sarah Burles studied History of Art at Cambridge University before doing a masters at University College London. She went on to have a career in museum and gallery education, establishing new services in three different museums before working at the Fitzwilliam Museum for many years. Sarah is the founder of Cambridge Art Tours and a Tour Director for ACE Cultural Tours and has led tours to Europe, America and the UK.

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