Dr Tom J Honeyman (1891-1971) was appointed as Director in 1939. This was the beginning of an exciting era at Kelvingrove as he was responsible for a series of successful exhibitions.
Publicity and public activities gave the building a higher profile and the collection of French paintings assumed international importance.
He is perhaps best remembered as ‘The man who bought the Dali’, and for putting Kelvingrove back on the map. Dr Honeyman received several high honours both before and after his retirement in 1954.
Wartime emergencies during World War II led to the evacuation of the Old Masters paintings to secret locations.
The annual exhibition of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts were held here between 1939 and 1946, instead of at their normal venue in McLellan Galleries.
A landmine dropped in Kelvin Way in 1941, shattering 50 tons of window glass and damaging plaster casts in the Sculpture Court.
The Centre Hall then became a venue for special temporary exhibitions.
Schools Museum Service
The Schools Museum Service (now the Museum Education Service) was founded in 1941. It was one of the first of its kind in Britain. It was funded by the Corporation Education Department and led to a huge increase in use of the collections and in the quality and quantity of visits by young people.
The Glasgow Art Gallery and Museums Association (now Friends of Glasgow Museums) was formed in 1944 and generated a lively interest in events, lectures and activities.
William McInnes (1868-1944), a Glasgow ship owner, bequeathed his art collection to the City. It included paintings, drawings, prints, silver, ceramics and glass.
Thirty-three of our most important French paintings were included in this bequest. McInnes (seen here in a portrait by GL Hunter) also championed the work of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists.
The great art event of wartime was the gift in 1944 by Sir William and Lady Burrell of their fabulous collection. This was followed by a sum of money to provide a gallery for its display. It is one of the greatest collections ever created by one person, comprising over 8,000 objects. Burrell's collection includes work by artists such as Rodin, Degas and Cézanne, to important examples of late medieval art, Chinese and Islamic art, Ancient Civilizations and much more. A building to house the collection was built in Pollok Country Park. Visit the Burrell Collection.
After the War
When war ended, the most valuable works could be returned for display. But it took until December 1947 for the West Galleries to be redecorated and hung according to the familiar classifications by school: Italian, Flemish, Dutch and French.
Two special exhibitions took place in the years after the war: Picasso–Matisse in 1946 and Van Gogh in 1948. The high quality of the art on display was reflected in the queues of visitors snaking round the outside of the gallery waiting to get in.
The most publicised event of 1952 was the purchase of Salvador Dali's iconic Christ of St John of the Cross, painted in 1951. The Corporation Committee was very enthusiastic when purchase of the painting was proposed. They decided to use what remained of the 1901 Exhibition Surplus Fund to meet the price of £8,200. They did this despite protests on aesthetic and financial grounds.
The public generally accepted the picture with pride and wonderment. Christ of St John of the Cross has continued to draw visitors to Glasgow ever since.
In 1993 it was moved to the pioneering St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art beside Glasgow Cathedral. It was returned to Kelvingrove in 2006 after the museum had undergone restoration.