Paxton House Picture Gallery has over 30 new National Gallery of Scotland paintings on show, the first re-hang for the gallery in over a decade.
It took Kate Anderson, senior curator of National Galleries Scotland, and her team five days to re-hang the gallery and first to view the new paintings were Paxton House trustees and Sir John Leighton, Director-General at the National Galleries of Scotland.
Works by celebrated 18th and 19th century Scottish artists Sir Henry Raeburn, William McTaggart and Sir William Allan can be enjoyed alongside modern paintings by the renowned Scottish colourists Samuel John Peploe and George Leslie Hunter, and artists with local connections to the Borders, Anne Redpath and Sir William Gillies.
The Picture Gallery at Paxton is the largest private gallery built in Scotland and one of the most ambitious in any British country house. It was designed in 1810 by the Edinburgh architect Robert Reid for George Home, as an addition to the neo-Palladian mansion built by John Adam for George’s cousin Patrick between 1758 and 1763.
Originally conceived to display the now-dispersed collection amassed by Patrick Home, the gallery has showcased paintings from the national collection since 1992, when Paxton first became a partner gallery of the National Galleries of Scotland.
This is the first time that the displays there have been re-hung since 2003, and the first time that they have included works from the 20th century.
Sir John Leighton commented: “We are delighted to be able to enrich the display at Paxton in this way, and hope the new loan, which can be enjoyed in the house’s splendid early nineteenth-century gallery and features an impressive and diverse selection of works, will be enjoyed by many visitors.
“It marks almost 25 years of partnership in this gallery which has been a fantastic partnership. Secondly we have a re-hang to bring some very important pictures into the gallery.”
Almost two million people saw the National Gallery of Scotland collection in Edinburgh last year and a further 250,000 people “viewed paintings in galleries outside the capital - including Paxton House.
“Within that network the relationship we have with Paxton is a very special one.
“Since 1992 the arrangement has allowed this extremely handsome space to be seen with high quality art and allows us to show more of our collection and reach out to the public in the Borders.
Ian Marrian, chairman of The Paxton Trust, added: “On behalf of the Paxton House Trustees, we are grateful to the National Galleries of Scotland for updating and refreshing our splendid Picture Gallery with 30 new pieces of art work. This was a significant undertaking and to see it all come to fruition makes it an exciting prospect for future visitors to Paxton House.”
Highlights in the new loan include Sir Henry Raeburn’s stunning portrait of Professor John Wilson (c.1805-10), which hangs to the right of the magnificent fireplace in Paxton House Picture Gallery. Wilson was Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh for over 30 years and Raeburn’s portrait depicts him as a dashing young horseman in yellow jodhpurs.
The new display also features ‘Sweetest eyes were ever seen’ (1881), a fascinating work by one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Sir John Everett Millais. Many of Millais’ sentimental or fancy portraits focus on children and in this instance the model is the child actress Beatrice Buckstone (b.1869), who is depicted at the age of 12. The painting has an interesting Scottish connection, as its first owner was Everett Gray, the youngest brother of Millais’s wife Effie, and it originally hung at the Gray family home, Bowerswell, near Perth.
The modern works in the display include Borders artist, Anne Redpath’s beautiful ‘Still Life with Teapot’ (1945) and another of her painting ‘Tulips’. Redpath, who was born in Galashiels and studied at Edinburgh College of Art, followed the tradition of artists such as Henri Matisse and Edouard Vuillard in creating intimate depictions of her own domestic setting. ‘Still Life with Teapot’ was painted at her home in Hawick.
Local Northumberland and Borders scenes such as Norham Castle (by Sir John Reid) form part of the new display as do three works by Borders artist Sir William Gillies, including his ‘The Peebles Train’ from 1950, showing the train emerging from behind the hills.