John Byrne: Sitting Ducks

John Byrne exhibition posterScottish National Portrait Gallery

I recently mentioned visiting the beautiful Portrait Gallery in my post about my love for Scotland. Whilst visiting the Gallery I saw an attractive exhibition dedicated to the work of Scottish artist John Byrne.

Byrne was born in Paisley and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1958 to 1963. He has worked as an artist, playwright and theatre designer. Byrne has always tried to avoid being associated with particular styles or movements in art. I was interested in the exhibition because the artist guided the selection of works on display, with many of the portraits being of close friends and family.

John Byrne exhibition, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

In this video, Byrne gives an introduction to the exhibition and guides the viewer around the space. He discusses some of the most captivating works, including those of his children and the beautiful Tilda Swinton.

I’ve always know John Byrne as the artist with the best moustache in Scotland! The exhibition contains a number of self-portraits (including the painting below) which show the evolution of his famous facial hair! I remember this artwork fondly, as previously hung in the Gallery cafe. I’ve spent many a time gazing at it while enjoying a coffee and a lovely homemade scone. That jacket is truly something to behold!

Self Portrait by John Byrne, 1971-1973. National Galleries Scotland

(source: National Galleries Scotland)

The exhibition also includes portraits of well-known faces, including comedian Billy Connolly wearing his famous banana boots!

Billy Connolly by John Byrne, National Galleries Scotland.

(source: National Galleries Scotland)

As well as the self-portraits, the other artworks which captured my imagination were the quickly executed chalks of his children. Even though the exhibition only covers two rooms, I felt it was successful in showcasing the artist’s various styles. It was also a truly Scottish exhibition. Perfect for my return visit! If you want to know more about the work of John Byrne, many of his artworks can be found on the Your Paintings website, as well as the National Galleries Scotland online collections.

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John Byrne | Sitting Ducks

National Portrait Gallery of Scotland

14 June – 19 October 2014

Admission free


view of Edinburgh Castle

In Love with Scotland

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Before I moved to Adelaide I lived in Edinburgh (and in St Andrews before that). While in the UK, I knew I HAD to go back to Scotland to relive the glory days! The good weather I’d had in London and Glastonbury fortunately decided to stick around, making for a very bonnie visit. I’m always discussing the various merits of Scotland with my boyfriend. I think Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the whole world. He on the other hand, found after ten years of living there, the weather wore him down. At least we won’t be having that problem in Australia!

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Day one in Edinburgh, consisted of an afternoon visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, followed by some shopping! This place wins the prize for my favourite museum in Edinburgh. I love everything about it! The Gallery reopened in late 2011 following a big refurbishment and it’s been one of my firm favourites ever since. You just need to look at the entrance hall to know what an amazing place it is.

Frieze at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland’s heroes and heroines. It opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. An elaborate Arts and Crafts decorative scheme, both inside and out, with its glittering friezes, evocative murals and extensive sculptural embellishment, makes it a very special visitor experience.

Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542 - 1587 (National Galleries Scotland)

Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542 – 1587, National Galleries Scotland.

I headed up to the top of the Gallery and started with the beautiful portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the reasons I love visiting is because Scottish history practically leaps off the walls. For a small country, Scotland has produced a vast array of wonderful minds through the ages. As the quote above suggests, this is the place to learn about the great and the good of Scottish history. I was a little but sad to find my favourite display of Scottish scientists has been removed to make way for a new World War I exhibition, but I guess that’s the rhythm of life in museums.

One of the displays I particularly enjoyed was the temporary exhibition “John Byrne: Sitting Ducks”. Focusing on the artist’s portraiture, the exhibition included many self-portraits. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the display and the artworks I admired soon.

The Queen’s Gallery

Entrance to the Queen's Gallery, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.

Visting the ‘In Fine Style’ exhibition wearing a dress I made myself!

Day 2: I set out to meet old friends and we ventured to the Queen’s Gallery, at Holyrood Palace. Those who have read my post about the Lace exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia, will know how much I love fashion displays. So I was really excited to see the In Fine Style exhibition, focusing on Tudor and Stuart dress. This exhibition was so amazing and I can’t wait to share the full details with you in an upcoming post. Whilst visiting the Palace I discovered I wasn’t the only person visiting Edinburgh that week. The Queen was also in town for the annual Holyrood week, which includes a garden party at the Palace. Shame she forgot to invite me!

City Art Centre

After a bite to eat for lunch we were off again, this time to the City Art Centre. We were able to catch “A Capital View: the Art of Edinburgh” before it closed early this month.

The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill by John Wilson Ewbank, 1822, City of Edinburgh Council.

The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill by John Wilson Ewbank, 1822, City of Edinburgh Council.

The beauty of this exhibition was being able to chat about the landscapes pointing out recognisable features. In many of the paintings (including the one above) I was able to identify the location of my old office. It was also interesting to note the things which have changed. For example, the building in the centre of the painting above, is the old Calton Jail, which was demolished in the 1930s. Overall, I thought it was an ideal exhibition for locals and a great celebration of a beautiful city.

I don’t know about you, but I find visiting museums a tiring business. After a wonderful day walking around the city a cocktail was just what I needed! Is anyone else in love with Scotland? Do you enjoy Edinburgh despite the weather being less than perfect?

pink cocktail

Bye for now…

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