The University of Glasgow’s painting collection is of international importance. Its strengths are its Old Masters, work by James McNeill Whistler, and Scottish art.
The Hunterian, Scotland’s oldest public museum, was established through the bequest of William Hunter (1718–1783). The first Hunterian Museum opened in 1807 moving in the 1870s to new University buildings in the west of the city. In 1980 the art collections were provided with the purpose-built Hunterian Art Gallery at the centre of the campus.
Hunter’s collection is a rare survival of an eighteenth-century picture cabinet and includes masterpieces by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Philips de Koninck, Rembrandt, George Stubbs and Frans Snyders. The unrivalled Whistler collection is centred on the artist’s estate and includes student work, nocturnes, seascapes, street views, and portraits. The Whistler Collection is complemented by the extensive Whistler archive in the University Library, works by followers, and Impressionist paintings by Eugène Louis Boudin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Henri Fantin-Latour, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley. Scottish art from the nineteenth century to the present is well represented with important works by William McTaggart; the Glasgow Boys; Scottish Colourists; and subsequent generations, including Joan Eardley, Robin Philipson, Paolozzi (sculpture) and Christine Borland (medium other than oil).
In all, the collection numbers some 900 paintings, of which 190 displayed in the Gallery, and around 250 around the campus. The art collection is not just about paintings. The print collection, the largest in Scotland, numbers some 40,000 works from the fifteenth century to the present. There is also the pre-eminent holding of the work of C. R. Mackintosh, including the interiors from his Glasgow home. The Hunterian also collects sculpture. All of the Hunterian collections were recognised as of National Significance for Scotland in 2007.