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Scottish National Portrait Gallery closes for major revamp

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is to undergo a major revamp, a scheme entitled Portrait of a Nation, which will “renovate and rejuvenate” the gallery in a plan that has already gained £5.1m from the Scottish Government. The Grade A-listed building in the New Town on Queen Street was erected as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery, opening in 1889 after being designed by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, but much of its space remains unused and unseen to the public.The Portrait of the Nation scheme will open up and restore large areas of the building in order to create 50% more gallery space.

A range of new services for visitors, including an education suite, learning centre and improved restaurant and shop, will be joined by new displays and exhibitions and all three floors of the building will be refurbished to better show the body of 30,000 works that is in its collection.

The gallery closes next week, marked by a Farewell Festival on April 4 and 5, and will reopen in 2011 – in the meantime £6m needs to be found to complete the redevelopment, while some of its more famous works will be shown in the National Gallery and the Dean Gallery.
A Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £4.4 million will go towards the £17.6m cost of the project, which aims to double gallery space and visitor numbers.
The renovated building will have a dedicated education suite, auditorium, IT gallery and research centre.
The revamp is expected to take up to two-and-a-half years. The gallery will close on Sunday so the work can begin.
The building which houses Scotland’s national portrait collection opened in 1889, and has been described as an architectural masterpiece.
The renovation project, called Portrait of the Nation, will increase the number of items displayed by 350%, allowing the gallery to display many more of its 30,000 portraits and photographs.

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Rare paintings restored at Trinity House

Two rare paintings are back on display at Trinity House maritime museum in Leith after essential conservation work.
The Trinity House collection includes four paintings by Sir Henry Raeburn. Most notable is a portrait of Admiral Duncan, who led the British fleet to victory against the Dutch at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797. This critical engagement in the Napoleonic wars made the admiral a national hero. Trinity House awarded him the Freedom of the Incorporation and commissioned Raeburn to paint his portrait for the walls of their headquarters.
One restored painting , dating from around 1885 and by an unknown artist, shows a Glasgow ship called the Loch Broom in full sail. The vessel was still in service as late as 1917, by which time it was in Scandinavian hands and renamed the Songdal, when it was sunk by a German submarine.The other painting, which dates from 1891, is by Bernard Benedict Hemy (1855-1913) and shows a steam tug towing a sailing ship.

Hemy’s family had emigrated to Australia in 1852, but he returned and settled in the north of England. Historic Scotland conservators Damiana Magris and Ailsa Murray carried out the work, which included cleaning and stabilisation of the oil paint.Ailsa said: “This is a lovely project to work on. The paintings at Trinity House give a real insight into the history of Leith and its role as a great sea port.

“But it’s also fascinating to find out more about the stories behind the paintings – the artists who created them and even what happened to the ships themselves.”The operation is part of a long-term project to conserve around 175 paintings which were transferred to the care of HS by the Incorporation of Mariners and Ship’s Masters in 2005.Hugh Morrison, Historic Scotland collections registrar, said: “Trinity House is a wonderful place and has a nationally important collection of maritime paintings and artefacts.

“Since the collection came into our ownership we have carefully catalogued what is there and assessed its condition so we can make sure that it is all properly conserved and protected for the future. The job of conserving the paintings will take many years, so we have started with those most in need of attention, and our experts are gradually working their way through them.

“The two pictures which have just gone back on display mark a remarkable point in history – the very end of the age of sail.

“In fact, it comes as quite a surprise to a lot of people that wooden ships like the Songdal would have been operating in an era when the oceans were being stalked by submarines.”

The incorporation, which was founded in 1380, had the mansion in Kirkgate built in 1816 and many of the paintings it contains were commissioned or donated by members. Historic Scotland’s Collections Unit spent two years carrying out a complete condition check and fully documenting the collection before starting work on the items in most urgent need of attention. Four paintings have been completed so far.

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John Lennon limited edition prints go on sale

A new series of limited edition prints by a rock legend go on sale in Edinburgh next month. The exhibition features 45 of John Lennon’s works at The Dome in George Street on March 31. It will include 14 which have never been exhibited in the UK before. The limited edition prints will all be for sale during the exhibition, which runs until April 4.
The originals of each piece were “signed” by Lennon with a special stamp known as a chop, created by artists in the Far East. His personal chop was designed to read “Like a Cloud, Beautiful Sound“, and each piece in the exhibition bears the image of the stamp.
The prints were created by Lennon’s wife , artist Yoko Ono, who in 1986 began releasing them in limited editions to establish her late husband’s fame as an artist as well as a musician. Lennon attended the Liverpool Art Institute, and continued to draw and write during his musical career. Lennon produced works in pen, pencil or Japanese sumi ink, and many of his drawings were used to illustrate three books he published during the 1960s – In His Own Write, A Spaniard in The Works and Skywriting By Word of Mouth. A collection of his lithographs, known as the “Bag One” portfolio, are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.