Scottish Art at the National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland looks after the nation’s collection of Scottish Art, as well as an outstanding selection of international fine art. It is one of the world’s most important holdings of Scottish Art and has a very distinctive character, and was assembled with a guiding emphasis on comprehensiveness combined with high quality. This has been influenced by its history, its setting and the many people involved in its creation, from the early nineteenth century to the present.  

Hugo van der Goes The Trinity Altarpiece about 1478 - 1479
Gavin Hamilton Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus 1760 - 1763

Housed in four spectacular galleries in Edinburgh, and our two outstations Duff House (Banff) and Paxton House (Berwickshire), the Scottish collection covers all the periods of artistic activity in Scotland from the creation of The Trinity Altarpiece in the fifteenth century, right up to artists working today. This includes major works by key artists such as Henry Raeburn, Allan Ramsay, David Wilkie, William McTaggart, Phoebe Anna Traquair and The Glasgow Boys. The modern and contemporary Scottish masterpieces in the collection continue to expand, most recently with the acquisition of Rachel Maclean’s Rachel Maclean’s Feed Me of 2015.

Sir David Wilkie Pitlessie Fair 1804
Rachel Maclean Feed Me 2015

Our historic and contemporary Scottish collections illuminate both Scotland’s past and traditions, and its people and sense of self. These artworks are also an important lens through which modern communities worldwide can explore the nation’s visual culture and international links. From the beginning, the collection was conceived to fulfil various purposes embracing the training of artists and the education of the general public. It was formed also by a vision of Scotland as a country which sits not at the margins but within the mainstream of European culture.

Alexander Nasmyth Robert Burns, 1759 - 1796. Poet 1828
Murdo MacLeod Andrew and Jamie Murray, 7 April 2008 (printed 2012). Copyright and Photography by Murdo MacLeod.

Over time, the purpose of the collection has shifted and developed but its underlying function as a source of inspiration and creativity remains very much in place. Similarly, the Galleries are still guided by a strong sense of Scotland as a country that is proud of its culture and artistic traditions but also open to influence and exchange with the wider world.

The Scottish collection is our most comprehensive, and this allows us to look at certain themes that run through the history of Scotland's artistic output. There are features on both Portraiture and Landscape, as well as collections related to Episodes from Scottish History, Legends, Fantasy and Imagination, and some of the Movements in Scottish Art. We also have specific features dedicated to certain artists, for example, Joan Eardley, Arthur Melville, and D. Y. Cameron.

Lachlan Goudie on the Scottish National Gallery

Download transcript