From nineteenth-century public statues to contemporary installations, Robert Burns and his poetry have been artistic subjects for hundreds of artists around the world. The digitisation team on the Art UK sculpture project have come across depictions of Scotland's national poet around the country – from Burns' heartland in Ayrshire and Dumfries, to a few less likely places. As we celebrate Burns Night on 25th January, we take a look at some of the sculptures already up on the Art UK website.
Robert Burns statue, Dundee by Sir John Steell
Burns visited Dundee only once, stopping off during his Scottish tour of 1787, proclaiming it afterwards 'a low-lying but pleasant town'. He never returned, but around 100 years later, in 1880, a crowd of 40,000 people turned up to the unveiling of a statue of the Bard by Sir John Steell. The sculpture was a copy of Steell's statue in Central Park, New York, which had been unveiled two weeks earlier, and still stands in the park's literary walk, opposite fellow Scotsman Sir Walter Scott.
Robert Burns statue, Glasgow by George Edwin Ewing, Francis Leslie and James Alexander Ewing
Glasgow's public monument to Burns in George Square was paid for by public subscription, and its unveiling on 25th January 1877 was not only declared a public holiday but was also attended by some 30,000 people. The statue also carries bronze reliefs by James Alexander Ewing depicting scenes from three of Burns' works: The Cottar's Saturday Night, Tam o' Shanter and The Vision.
The Poet and His Muse by Albert Hemstock Hodge
This relief sculpture in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum is one of the original plasters for Albert Hemstock Hodge's public statue of Burns in Stirling, and depicts a scene from his poem The Vision. The work shows Burns and his muse, Coila, who is providing him with inspiration and encouragement. The public statue in Stirling was unveiled just after the outbreak of the First World War.
Robert Burns statue, Perth by William Anderson
This painted statue above the Robert Burns Lounge Bar in Perth is by William Anderson, who was also the son of renowned Perthshire artist David Anderson. William Anderson installed the sculpture outside his own home in County Place in 1854 – it was later moved but returned to its current site after the artist's death. As with Dundee, Burns is known to have visited Perth only once, as a stop on his tour of 1787.
Robert Burns statue, Irvine by James Pittendrigh Macgillivray
This bronze sculpture is a version of the public statue that James Pittendrigh Macgillivray was commissioned to create for Irvine, and was gifted to the town by John Spiers. The statue, which was positioned to face Burns' birthplace of Alloway, was unveiled in 1896 – the centenary of Burns' death.
Monument to a Mouse by Kenny Hunter
This giant bronze mouse by Kenny Hunter forms part of the Poet's Path, the National Trust for Scotland's outdoor sculpture trail, near the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. The work references Burns' poem To a Mouse, and is one of several outdoor works commissioned by contemporary artists for the Poet's Path that were photographed at the end of 2019 as part of the Art UK Sculpture Project. Those works will be added to the Art UK site soon – watch this space!
Rhona Taylor, Coordinator for Art UK's Sculpture Project