The Burrell Collection, comprising some 9,000 works of art, was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1944 by Sir William Burrell and his wife Constance, Lady Burrell.
Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) was a successful shipping agent in Glasgow. Upon the early death of his father, William and his elder brother, George, took over management of the family firm, Burrell & Son, which expanded rapidly to a position of international standing. By 1918, the brothers decided to sell off almost the entire Burrell shipping fleet. William devoted the rest of his long life to amassing the bulk of his art collection.
William Burrell's interest in art began in his teens and, by 1900, he was an important and respected collector. The general shape of the collection we see today was formed early:
- Medieval European art
- Oriental Ceramics
- European paintings
Ancient Civilizations were added relatively late in Sir William Burrell's collecting career.
In 1944, Sir William and Lady Burrell signed the Deed of Gift of their collection to the City of Glasgow - the place of their birth and the centre of their families' business activities. Sir William specified that the Collection be housed in a building 16 miles from the centre of Glasgow. He believed that a rural setting would show the works of art to their greatest advantage, and he was fearful of the damaging effects of high levels of air pollution, particularly on the tapestries. Sadly, no suitable site had been identified by the time of Sir William Burrell's death in 1958.
In 1967, in another wonderful act of generosity, Mrs Anne Maxwell Macdonald and her family gifted Pollok House with its fine collection of Spanish paintings - and 360 acres of Pollok Estate - to the City of Glasgow. It was generally agreed that Pollok Estate offered an opportunity for the finest of rural setting.
The Burrell Collection opened its doors to the public in October 1983.