This is really an unexpected find. There must be so many art galleries across the United Kingdom with collections of very fine art works which the general art lover never hears about, especially if they are not within travelling distance. For me, the McManus Gallery and Museum, which I had not heard about before, falls into this category. Congratulations to Dundee City Council, Leisure and Communities Department, and their partners for publishing this book which accompanied an exhibition of some of the holdings of Scottish paintings of 1910-1980.
The exhibition, held in Dundee and London, presents one work, illustrated in colour as a full page plate with complementary text about the artist and the painting, from more than forty Scottish artists. The exceptions are John Duncan, 1866-1945, the foremost painter of the Celtic Revival movement of the late 19th century, Alberto Morocco, 1917-1998, and James McIntosh Patrick, 1907-1998, each of whom is represented by three works. The descriptive texts include listings of other works by the artist that are also to be found in the collection.
A brief essay, by Anna Robertson and Clara Young, describes Dundee's Art Collection which followed on from a series of selling exhibitions held from 1877-1891 and which, by 1917, had grown to over 300 works due, in no small part, to a 1903 bequest of £3000 by a local teacher, John Morris. From the start, the collection was housed in a Gothic Revival building dating from 1867. In 2005, the building was closed to enable major renovations to be undertaken and the new facilities were opened to the public in 2007; this catalogue was published to mark the occasion. The collection now exceeds 6500 items.
Some of the artists were familiar to me from books about Scottish and British art; these included Bellany, Cadell, Colquhoun, Cursiter, Fergusson, Gunn, Hunter, MacBryde, Morrocco, Peploe, Redpath and William Scott, and it was the juxtaposition of the more familiar and the unknown, and of the different styles and motifs which was one of the charms of this collection. Still lifes by Allan, Baird, Hunter, Keay, MacBryde, Morrocco and Peploe; landscapes by Crawford, Fergusson, Fleming, Grieve, Maclaughlan Milne and 3 impressive works by the Realist, McIntosh Patrick, "Autumn, Kinnordy", 1936; "A City Garden", 1940, and "The Tay Bridge from my Studio Window", 1948; portraits by Cadell, Carmichael, Cowan, Foggie, Gunn, Pringle and Redpath; mixed media by Maclean; modernist and abstract works by Barns-Graham, Bellany, Buchan, Burns, Cargill, Colquhoun, Dallas Brown, Fletcher, Houston, Knox, McCance, McLean and Scott; trompe l'oeil by Collins; symbolism by Duncan and a wonderful futurist painting by Cursiter.
It is to be hoped that similar projects will be undertaken by other galleries in Scotland and across the UK. However, in the current economic crisis they will probably not have the funds to do so. I recommend this book to all lovers of Scottish and British painting.
An exhibition, "Reflections from the Tay", at the McManus Gallery and Museum in 2013, focuses more closely on artists born in the city, who worked locally or were associated with the Dundee College of Art, later Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, and now a faculty of the University of Dundee.