William Burrell - A Famous Scot - Shipowner and compulsive art collector
Sir William Burrell (1861-1951) Born in Glasgow, third of the nine children of William Burrell, the young William joined his father's Clyde-based shipping company at 15, but was to sell out in 1917. In 1916 he had acquired Hutton Castle, Berwickshire, and began a programme of lavish embellishments, filling its rooms with some of the world's finest treasures. Burrell had begun collecting objets d'art as a schoolboy, and between 1911 and 1944 he spent on average 20000 annually on works of art. His collecting tastes changed over the years; he began by collecting canvases of artists, such as Raeburn - carefully examining the frames to make sure that he obtained a double bargain! - and then moved to the works of Degas and other French artists of the 19th century. It seems that his real love was Gothic art, and Gothic tapestries in particular; the collection of tapestries in the Burrell Collection is only surpassed by that in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1944 he presented 8000 objects to the city of Glasgow for the foundation of a museum, as well as 450000 to start a fund towards the museum building itself. The Burrell Collection was finally housed in a special gallery at Pollock Park, Glasgow, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983. In 1949 Burrell had gifted a fine collection of 42 paintings, including works by Edgar Degas and Jacob Maris, to the Berwick-upon-Tweed art gallery near his home at Hutton; today this collection is a centrepiece of the revamped Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, pertinently housed in the refurbished 18th-century town barracks. An eccentric, Burrell spent a fortune on antiques but, it was said, he insisted on buying his ties and glasses from Woolworths.