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Edinburgh - Art Galleries

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Notes in italics from Pevsner Architectural Guides, Edinburgh by John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker (1991), Yale University Press.

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Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road. Originally built as John Watson's School for the fatherless children of the professional classes.
The front lawn was re-landscaped in 2002 to a design by Charles Jencks. Called a Landform it consists of a stepped, serpentine mound reflected in three crescent-shaped pools of water. More about the Landform.
About the building: Greek Doric, long and grey in a half-rural setting, by William Burn, 1825. ... Two stories on a basement with square windows ... hexastyle portico with middle bays recessed into the building. Then five-bay links and three-bay pavilions, the whole united by a triglyph entablature. ...


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In the screen-bay end elevations of the pavilions the outside bays repeat the pilastered treatment of the front. Astylar centre with two tripartite windows on ground-floor level. Severe rear elevation in rough coursed stonework, the hall in the raised centre section. ...


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Over the road, the Dean Gallery. Originally the Dean Orphan Hospital. Characteristically original work of Thomas Hamilton, 1831-3. English Baroque in concept but Neo-Classical in detail, carried out with the utmost precision in Craigleith stone. A single block of two storeys on a terrace with plain walls and urns. Central steps between scrolls (like inverted consoles) lead up to the tetrastyle Tuscan portico, the wide intercolumniation emphasized by a massive attic in two stages, bearing a clock-face (the clock salvaged from the demolition of the Netherbow Port) on scrolls. At the ends tall pavilions with paired arches confined between the plain corner pilasters. To the rear two strange openwork towers; glimpsed previously over the trees, they may already have mystified the visitor. They mark the twin staircases, for which their lowest stages provide clearstorey light by arched windows. Scrolls and urns initiate the upper stages; four tall octagonal chimney-shafts united by arches. The idea must have come from Vanbrugh (e.g. Blenheim), but the late Classical detail is closer to George Dance at Cole Orton and Ashburnham. Other details typify Hamilton and his age, e.g. the proportions of the windows and their glazing, with narrow panes bordering the large ones, accentuating the sharpness of the whole building. ...


   
          Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh         

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Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound. Greek Doric by William H. Playfair, 1822-6 ... In 1831 Playfair was asked to enlarge it. He increased the length to sixteen columns and considerably enriched the whole design, enlarging the corner blocks with distyle porticos and sphinxes facing E and W, and adding wreaths to the triglyph frieze and tendrilly carving to the tympana of the main pediments. The N pediment (first picture), which he advanced by another rank of columns, was crowned in 1844 by the seated statue of Queen Victoria (her robes 'draped so as to give a general idea of Britannia') by John Steell. ... (Andy Warhol exhibition at the time of the first picture).


Nationa Gallery of Scotland, The Mound, Edinburgh
         
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National Gallery of Scotland, The Mound, just to the south of the Royal Scottish Academy. Completed 1854 and again designed by William H. Playfair, but Ionic columns this time instead of Doric, although a long Doric pilastrade. A central portico to a higher transverse block. Double porticos at each end.


Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh          Scottish National Portrait Gallery entrance                   
         
  Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street. Red sandstone of Dumfriesshire, Orangey-red at the E end of Queen Street's weathered grey, this Venetian Gothic palace, designed by R. Rowan Anderson ... was built in 1885-90 ... Its architectural sources are mixed. The big centrepiece and blank upper wall (for top-lit galleries) recall the Doges' Palace, but the bay design (plain arches on the ground floor, paired windows above) is derived from Anderson's own published studies, e.g of Figeac and Cordes, and the pierced parapet comes from his old master George Gilbert Scott. ...
At the head of the arched and gabled centrepiece stands History over the Scottish Arms (the latter from a C14 manuscript), below them Scotland between Industry and Religion, and under the windows three reliefs of Stone and Bronze Age craftsmen, the Fine Arts and the Sciences. The whole ensemble is flanked by pinnacled buttresses with more figures in niches ...
 
         
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Two-storey central hall, where the red sandstone columns and corner piers have gilded foliage capitals ... Over the arcade a frieze of celebrities from Scottish history ... Statues and busts of famous Scots, Robert Burns in the centre of the picture.


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