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Scottish National Portrait Gallery
national portrait gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh
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Scottish National Portrait Gallery
national portrait gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh
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1 Queen Street
Edinburgh
United Kingdom

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The red sandstone building, a few blocks from the National Gallery and a few more from the Medieval Golden Mile, considers itself a portrait of Scotland. And it is, in its own way.

The Scots have made some very creative choices putting this museum together and have put wildly different types of portraits side by side, from the classic royal portraiture of James IV of Scotland from 1507, to the recent rock-star mega-photo of QueenElizabeth II.The comedy greats aisle has Big Yin (Billy Connolly), and not far from there is the death-mask of Dolly the first cloned sheep. It’s a look in on Scotland through an unlikely parade of notable Scots in science (Peter Higgs of the Higgs boson), medicine, culture (Sean Connery), and sports. Organizing things by field is cool, it lets you see the links and evolution of Scottish contribution to art, science, comedy, and more. And it’s no small contribution.

The Board of Trustees for Fisheries, Manufactures and Improvements in Scotland, established in 1727 and responsible for Scottish industrial policy, is an unlikely patron of the arts. Still, and for reasons unclear to me, it played a major role in conceiving the gallery. But the Board lacked funds and the British government wouldn’t give them any, so they turned to John Ritchie Findlay, who after first going bankrupt eventually became the chief proprietor of The Scotsman newspaper and came into lots of family money. He paid for the construction and an endowment, and masterminded the building.

The Board had another problem, however. It had a small collection for a large building, and no portraits of 19th century Scots. We’re lucky for the solution it found. The board hired one William Hole to create a mural illustrating Scottish history in the two story-high main hall. Hole took the commission to heart and toured France and Italy with a chemist to learn the latest fresco techniques. He then spent three years painting a procession of 150 famous Scots high above our heads, on the balustrade of the first floor galley.The mural is drop dead gorgeously golden, lit softly through the high arched windows. Hole was a keen astronomer and topped off the hall with a brilliant zodiac ceiling.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is an art museum on Queen Street, Edinburgh. The gallery holds the national collections of portraits, all of which are of, but not necessarily by, Scots. It also holds the Scottish National Photography Collection.

Since 1889 it has been housed in its red sandstone Gothic revival building, designed by Robert Rowand Anderson and built between 1885 and 1890, donated by John Ritchie Findlay, owner of The Scotsman newspaper. The gallery reopened on 1 December 2011 after being closed since April 2009 for the first comprehensive refurbishment in its history, which was carried out by Page\Park Architects.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is part of National Galleries of Scotland, a public body that also owns the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Scottish National Portrait Gallery.