Scottish National Portrait Gallery Murals

Murals to be cleaned for gallery reopening on 30th November 2011

A stunning set of murals, which decorate the entrance hall of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, is to be cleaned for the first time in a quarter of a century, as part of a major conservation project funded by WREN, a not for profit business that awards grants to community projects from funds donated by Waste Recycling Group (WRG) to the Landfill Communities Fund.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery opened in 1889, as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. The decorative scheme created by William Hole in the late 1890s for the Gallery’s magnificent entrance hall, is one of the building’s most striking features. It comprises a dazzling, painted procession of famous Scots; a series of large-scale murals, depicting scenes from Scottish history; and a beautifully detailed mapping of the night sky, which adorns the ceiling.

The work is currently being carried out under the supervision of the National Galleries of Scotland Conservation Department, working with students from UK and overseas universities, including the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Northumbria University, Newcastle; the Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart; Winterthur University, Delaware; and Metropolia University, Helsinki. The results can be seen when the Gallery, which has recently undergone a major refurbishment, re-opens on 30 November.

William Hole’s decorative features have been central to the fundraising campaign behind this ambitious project. Supporters are invited to buy a star from the ceiling of the Great Hall or one of the figures from the historical frieze, including William Wallace and James Watt. So far over 320 stars have been sold and half of the figures, with many still available for those who wish to donate to the project.

Lesley Stevenson, Senior Paintings Conservator at the National Galleries of Scotland said: “This is a unique opportunity to conserve William Hole’s great masterpiece – such an integral part of this spectacular building. We are delighted that so many young conservators are able to gain invaluable experience on this exciting project and are grateful to WREN for their generous support.”

Peter Cox, managing director of WREN, said: “WREN makes a difference to people’s lives by awarding grants to community, environmental and heritage projects across the UK. We’re delighted to support the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and this valuable work to restore the entrance to its former glory.”

More about the frieze…

William Hole’s frieze depicts a variety of famous people from Scottish history, all dressed in fine regalia as they stand in a processional queue, looking down from the upper heights of the entrance hall at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  The characters go back in time from Thomas Carlyle, who inspired the creation of the Gallery, and include such notables as James Watt, Robert Burns, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, Saint Columba along with many, many others.  Explore the frieze for yourself and, see it in all it’s glory, simply by clicking HERE.


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  1. Pingback: First Clean in 25 Years For Hole Murals: Gallery Reopens on 30th November, 2011 | William Hole Online