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Van Gogh's portrait of Alexander Reid back on show at Kelvingrove Museum

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Van Gogh's portrait of Alexander Reid back on show at Kelvingrove Museum

One of Glasgow Museum’s most recognisable paintings, Portrait of Alexander Reid, by Vincent Van Gogh has returned to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Over the past 18 months the painting has travelled across Japan, part of a touring exhibition shown at the City Museum of Art in Shizuoka, the Bunkamura Museum of Art in Tokyo and the Museum of Art in Ehime. The Burrell Collection: A voyage to impressionism. Vision of a great ship owner-collector featured several works from William Burrell's outstanding collection of Impressionist paintings on tour while The Burrell Collection is closed for major refurbishment.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, said:

Japanese museum visitors showed a real appetite for enjoying artworks from The Burrell Collection during the recent touring exhibition. Now, following the successful visit, it’s wonderful to see Glasgow’s Van Gogh back on show in Kelvingrove. The must-see painting and its rich back story make it one of the best-loved works in Glasgow Museums’ entire collection, for both tourists and Glaswegians alike.

Painted in 1887 and purchased by the City of Glasgow in 1974, Portrait of Alexander Reid continues to be one of the real draws for the million plus people who visit Kelvingrove Museum each year.

Research Manager (art) with Glasgow Museums, Rebecca Quinton, added:

Animated by fiery touches of red, orange and green, this portrait has an enigmatic and expressive power. It features the young Glasgow art dealer Alex Reid, who worked in Paris with Van Gogh's art dealer brother Theo and, for a short in 1887, shared the brothers' Montmartre apartment. During his stay Reid posed for this portrait.

Until 1928 many believed it to be a self-portrait of Van Gogh. It was only when Reid's son saw the painting in a catalogue and contacted the artist's family to explain it was a portrait of his father that the sitter’s identity became known.  An artist friend of Reid and Van Gogh wrote the two men were so alike that 'they might have been twins. I have often hesitated, until I got close, as to which of them I was meeting'.

Rebecca Quinton continued:

Alex Reid was one of Glasgow’s most important art dealers in the late 19th century and early 20th century. His eye for detail, exquisite taste and links with some of the most up and coming artists of the day ensured his reputation across the art world. In fact it was Reid that Sir William Burrell entrusted to carry out most of his dealings in French art.

More than 75 years of Sir William Burrell’s life were devoted to amassing one of the world’s greatest, single personal collections, today The Burrell Collection is recognised as being of world-class quality. Burrell held Reid in the highest regard, saying Reid ‘did more than any other man has ever done to introduce fine pictures to Scotland and to create a love of art.’

Alexander Reid was born in 1854, the oldest of six children. His family owned a successful business specialising in furnishing ships and making figure heads. When he left school he took up a position as carver in the workshop, but when fire destroyed the business he set up his own art gallery, showing the work of the Glasgow Boys, amongst others. He then decided to move to France to further his knowledge in French art. In the 1880s he worked in Paris with the important dealers Boussod & Valadon and it was here he shared a room with both Vincent and Theo Van Gogh.

On his return to Glasgow he set up his own gallery, La Societe des Beaux-Arts, where he brought many outstanding examples of French art to Scotland. In 1926 the gallery merged with the Lefèvre Gallery in London. Alex Reid & Lefèvre Gallery remained in existence until 2002. Alexander Reid’s legacy lives on. Many of the works he traded are now exhibited in some of the most important art collections in the world, from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Art and objects from The Burrell Collection have been enjoyed by more than a million people nationally and internationally while its home in Glasgow is being refurbished. To date more than 1.3 million people have visited exhibitions featuring works collected by Sir William Burrell in venues from Tokyo to London. The total number of visitors who have viewed objects from his collection rises to over four million when you include visits to see single loans of objects to museums not shown as part of the temporary exhibitions. The tour which began in 2016 has seen parts of the collection go overseas for the first time since it was given to Glasgow in 1944.  The Burrell Collection will re-open to the public after a major refurbishment in Spring 2021.

Portrait of Alexander Reid 1887 is now on show in The French Gallery at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. The gallery also features works by other renowned French artists including Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com.