The Man Who Collected the World: William Burrell ArtWorks Scotland


The Man Who Collected the World: William Burrell

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Translucent porcelain from China,

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exquisite tapestries from France

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and stained glass

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from the monasteries and abbeys of old northern Europe.

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9,000 priceless objects

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representing 4,000 years of human creativity,

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all assembled by just one man.

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It's the richness and scale of this collection

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which makes it so fascinating.

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But what's equally fascinating and intriguing

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is what sort of person would put a collection like this together.

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That was William Burrell.

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Burrell was a truly outstanding collector

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and he deserves to be much better known.

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Burrell has the most outstanding examples of Degas

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in any collection in Europe.

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There are also extraordinary examples of Chinese art,

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the Islamic art collection is world-class.

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It's an astonishing collection.

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You will not be disappointed.

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There is nothing like it in here?

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No, not only in here, anywhere.

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'Gifted to the city of Glasgow in 1944,

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'the Burrell collection is so vast

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'that less than half is on public display.'

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I can't believe this is down in the store.

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I can't believe this is down in the store!

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'The story of William Burrell is also the story of Glasgow -

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'the Second City of Empire at its peak.'

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It's the story of a man who made a fortune out of shipping

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and spent it on art...

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and his very own castle.

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It just looked like a museum.

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It was absolutely beautiful.

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A husband and father whose public success hid personal sadness.

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A patron so private, he never commissioned his own portrait.

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There's very few accounts of him, he didn't write an autobiography,

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and yet, this is his memorial.

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He wanted something kept together.

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Burrell made a huge impact on the city of Glasgow,

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yet we know almost nothing about him.

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But I've always wondered what drove him to make his fortune

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and spend a lifetime amassing this unique collection.

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The family wealth had been lost,

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and I think this was a great impetus to Willie

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because first of all,

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he wanted to regain the money which had been lost.

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And later on, he hoped to regain the status.

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Whatever motivated the man,

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his collection ensured that his name will never be forgotten.

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There is nothing quite like this anywhere in the world.

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The Burrell Collection opened its doors in 1983 with great fanfare.

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The Queen turned the key,

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and for the first time a cornucopia of artefacts

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which had languished in crates in dusty store rooms

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was displayed for all to see in its purpose-built home,

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some of it built into the fabric of these very walls.

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I remember how excited I was when the Burrell opened.

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It was the first time I'd seen

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the wonders of the world in a modern setting.

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And each time I come,

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I'm rewarded when my eye catches something I've never noticed before.

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William Burrell has been described as the Millionaire Magpie,

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grabbing anything that glittered -

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a first-century Roman sculpture here,

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a seventh-century Chinese warrior there.

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But I don't think that's true.

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Burrell developed great passions and then he pursued them.

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He spent his money carefully, very carefully,

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amassing this extraordinary collection,

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piece by hand-picked piece.

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A collection he hoped would raise the Burrell family

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to the highest echelons of society.

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William Burrell didn't have a very smart beginning at all

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because he was born in a three-room tenement in Glasgow,

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and he was the third child to be born there,

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so it was fairly full of people,

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that was in 1861.

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His mother was a dressmaker

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and I'm pretty sure that she fitted all the children out

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with clothes made by herself.

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And they had to scrape to exist and he was brought up on this,

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and he was made to scrape.

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And he really appreciated the value of thrift and he never ever forgot.

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At the end of the 19th century,

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Glasgow offered many ways to get rich for those prepared to take the risk.

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Burrell's grandfather started out shifting cargo on the city's canals.

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But the era of industrialisation soon opened up Glasgow

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to the greater riches of the Empire.

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In just two decades, the Burrell family went from moving barges

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to commissioning Clyde-built steamships

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for their world wide freight business.

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William left school aged just 14 to try his hand in the family firm.

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These were William Burrell's daily surroundings,

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Burrell & Sons offices were here in George Square

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as it was being built

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in the prestigious heart of this booming industrial city.

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And a few streets away were the burgeoning commercial art gallery

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and auction houses where William Burrell headed at every opportunity.

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He started off, apparently, when he was 14

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and he did manage to bid for a picture successfully,

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and it was a portrait of a lady and he got it for a few shillings.

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And he was very pleased and brought it back.

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And his father, who I think was not that way inclined,

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said, "For goodness sake, William,

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"why don't you spend the money on a cricket bat?"

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And then he realised that he had no frame.

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And so he thought, "Well,

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"I haven't got a frame and I can't afford to get a frame,"

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and so he took it back and resold it and lost money on the transaction.

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'But his early mistakes as a teenage collector

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'didn't put Willie Burrell off.' It's a treasure trove.

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'We don't know quite where his passion for paintings came from,

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'but Glasgow in the 1880s wasn't a bad place to start.'

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Burrell was excited by a group of contemporary artists

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known as the Glasgow Boys

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whose work he could buy on his doorstep.

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Burrell's favourite was Joseph Crawhall.

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One of the best things about this is you get the sense of speed,

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because the dachshund's ears are flying, the feet are going,...

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-Yes, she is not remotely steady on the bicycle.

-No.

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She looks like she's wobbling and it's so delicate,

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just these little touches of colour.

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And again, in this one, you get the real sense of excitement

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and of the huge hindquarters of this racing horse,

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and this splash which is the tail up.

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Yes.

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Burrell's passion for Crawhall's work would last a lifetime.

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But he was also starting to collect artists of international renown,

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like James McNeill Whistler.

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We have quite a number of lovely Whistler drawings and prints

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in the collection and this is one of two pastels that we have.

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And clearly, he loved works on paper,

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he loved pastels and he loved colour.

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I mean, would part of the reason

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that he did concentrate on pastels sometimes

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and works on paper is that they tend to be cheaper than the oils?

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-Well, there is that, too.

-He was canny.

-Yes, he was canny.

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Um, because he's definitely buying things quite early on

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that are not expensive, he's not buying, on the whole,

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the larger oil paintings that are going to be more expensive.

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-But what about Whistler oils?

-Well, Whistler's still relatively cheap.

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-He's buying early on, so...

-Does he have any Whistler oils as well?

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Yeah, yeah. So the value is not rocketing.

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William Burrell bought two impressive oil paintings

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by Whistler, spending £1500 on The Fur Jacket alone,

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but sold them both just a few years later.

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'Luckily for us, Burrell didn't sell all his Whistlers.'

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Oh, my goodness.

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It's one of Westminster.

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KIRSTY GASPS

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You can just make out the lights along the far bank.

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And the factory chimneys, but just...just and no more.

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And what I like about this is many artists at the time

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were doing narrative paintings, paintings that have a story,

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well, this is something that is invoking a mood,

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and what I love is the fact that Burrell obviously cared about that.

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I can't believe this is down in the store.

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I can't believe this is down in the store!

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Yeah, we should have this one on display.

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It's a really wonderful nocturne.

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I'm very glad he didn't sell this.

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Burrell was not only buying and selling paintings,

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he was also commissioning new works.

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He asked Glasgow Boy, John Lavery, to paint his youngest sister, Mary.

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This must be one of the most beautiful,

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elegant portraits in the collection.

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She's very elegant, isn't she?

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William Burrell preferred to stay out of the limelight,

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but he was happy to show off the families growing wealth

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with this arresting portrait.

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What this says to me is, this is my sister,

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I want Lavery to paint her, and I want to show her off to the world.

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William Burrell's world had changed immeasurably.

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By the 1890s, he was at the helm of the family business,

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and business was booming.

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Burrell & Sons ships were now carrying cargo

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to ever farther flung reaches of the globe.

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And as his company and his bank balance grew,

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so did Burrell's infatuation with buying art.

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Letters written by Burrell's best friend, Robert Lorimer,

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offer a rare eyewitness account of his activities.

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"He travels pretty well all over Europe two or three times a year,

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"visiting the regions.

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"He is 36, he possesses 17 Matthew Maris's, two Whistlers,

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"God knows what else.

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"Really he has very fine taste. God knows where he got it."

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Burrell headed to the continent

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to make his first purchases of European art,

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where the bargaining techniques he'd picked up

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in the cutthroat world of global shipping served him very well indeed.

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"That man's a perfect nailer.

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"To see him tackling some of these dealers was a treat

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"and in many ways I learned a lot from him."

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The generation that Burrell belonged to were a bit more daring

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in their purchases,

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and they were interested in buying modern, European art.

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And I think that's probably

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because they were perhaps more international in their outlook.

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And if you think about the businesses that they ran...

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-And they travelled.

-They travelled.

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And Burrell was sending ships off here, there and everywhere.

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And so they had a more international outlook.

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'Burrell was also buying top quality French

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'and Dutch art from a handful of dealers in Glasgow.'

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So the Burrell's got at least as many Degas

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-as any other collection in the United Kingdom?

-Yes.

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'And through them, some of the best modern art

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'in the world found its way into William Burrell's hands.

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'The collector fell for the work of a living French artist

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'who was helping to change the face of Western art. Edgar Degas.'

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This is one of Degas' most important paintings.

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And it's certainly one of the best of his works that Burrell purchased.

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The man that we're seeing here, Duranty,

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was an art critic and novelist, and a close friend of Degas.

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And in 1876 Duranty wrote a pamphlet

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called The New Painting.

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And what he was saying was, when you're doing a portrait,

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show them in their own environment and tell us something about them.

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In other words, you can look at that portrait

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and you know without knowing what this man actually did -

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a writer, completely surrounded by his books and pamphlets.

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So this was the whole idea,

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-this idea of modernity showing real life in art.

-Absolutely.

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And Burrell loved Degas, but one of the artists he also loved,

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from a modern point of view, was Manet.

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And this was exhibited in 1880 at an exhibition called La Vie Moderne.

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These voyeuristic snapshots of everyday life

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in Parisian streets and cafes,

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and behind-the-scenes at the ballet,

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were new and daring,

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far beyond the posed portraits that had come before.

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I absolutely love this, because instead of the male gaze,

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this is a woman with field glasses

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looking straight at Degas as he paints her.

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So she sees him in close-up.

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So why do you think he bought something like this?

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This is extraordinary, so striking.

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Well, as far as we know,

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this is one of the very first works that he buys.

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We know he had this by 1902.

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It would seem to me that because he was buying it early,

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that without realising it, he was collecting something

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that was actually almost subversive and certainly quite provocative.

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By good judgement and luck,

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William Burrell amassed no fewer than 22 works by the artist,

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building up the largest and finest collection of Degas

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anywhere in the UK.

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Why was Glasgow such a vibrant scene for art

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at the end of the 1800s?

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Well, I think it's a combination of three things -

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first of all, there was a lot of money around,

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and that's very important for artists

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because there were people to support them,

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the second thing is that there were these dealers,

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these art agents, who were able to act as an interface

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between the artist and the collector,

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and of course, the third thing is that there were these men

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who were very anxious to buy paintings.

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'Burrell's new-found wealth made him a leading player in this art market.'

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Was he, do you think, from an early age, a very astute businessman?

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Very. Absolutely ruthless in his ship owning.

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Because he used to wait until the shipyards were crying out for work

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and he'd order a whole lot of ships at once and get them very cheap.

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And then he used to sell when there was a boom.

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And this is how he made money.

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Between 1898 and 1900, just two years,

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as demand for ships peaked and prices rose, Burrell sold his entire fleet.

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His bold strategy reaped him huge financial rewards.

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By the turn-of-the-century,

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Burrell's business acumen had amassed him his first fortune.

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Now he could step back from shipping

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and concentrate on building his collection.

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And that moment coincided with one of the most fabulous events

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in Glasgow's cultural history -

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the 1901 International Exhibition here in Kelvingrove Park -

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and Burrell put himself at the heart of it.

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He had been collecting for more than 20 years,

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but Burrell had never put his impressive collection

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on public display.

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Now the time was right as people flocked to the Glasgow Exhibition

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from all over the country to see the latest advances

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in industry and in art.

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And when he lent the exhibition more than 200 works,

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Willie Burrell announced himself as an international collector of note.

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It's the first time

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you've got a real picture of the breadth of his collection.

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He has some Manets and also he has some Glasgow items.

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But the surprise is, with the mediaeval items.

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There were tapestries there. How he acquired them, nobody knows.

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So it's the breadth of the collection

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that's really interesting.

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-Burrell had an international ambition, didn't he?

-Yes, he did.

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And I think, really, the people he was looking at...

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..were the Americans.

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And they're the big collectors, you got the Rockefellers,

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you've got JP Morgan, and Frick,

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and then latterly of course, Randolph Hearst.

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In the middle of the 19th century, some of the richest men in America

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began spending unimaginable fortunes on art and antiquities.

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Coke and steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick

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bought many of Europe's finest old masters.

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And later, newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst,

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bought everything from Greek vases to Spanish furniture.

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They wanted to furnish their grand mansions

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and castles as a mark of their status.

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In a sense, Burrell belongs to that kind of...

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..what we rather unkindly call the robber barons,

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but those people who are really self-made people coming up

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and buying collections,

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forming their identity with these great collections.

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All these industrialists were also showing that they were cultured too.

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-It wasn't just about blood and guts and steel.

-Oh, absolutely not.

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I think that's absolutely right.

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This was collecting of a high order.

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We don't know exactly where Burrell started collecting mediaeval art.

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He may have picked up his taste on family holidays to Holland

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and France, perhaps encouraged by his mother,

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who also fancied herself a collector.

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But over six decades, Burrell assembled one of the finest

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collections of Northern European, mediaeval, Gothic,

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and early Renaissance art ever amassed by one man.

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Here.

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There's no space to do that

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otherwise I would go in the middle now.

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These 14th century stained-glass panels from a Carmelite monastery

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in Boppard on Rhine in Germany survived iconoclasm

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and the Napoleonic wars and are also

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some of the most beautiful glass Burrell collected.

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They have been up on display since the museum opened

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and now need to come down for conservation.

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There is always an unknown quantity to it.

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Until you have done it, you never know.

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We always have a contingency plan.

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What is the worst that could happen?

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I suppose the worst that could happen would be

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that it slips and falls.

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OK, I have got hold of this. It is coming down.

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It will be really exciting to see them in the workshop

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and start exploring what went on with them

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before they went on display here at the Burrell.

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In a lifetime of collecting, William Burrell

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steadily put together one of the finest

0:21:580:22:01

and most comprehensive collections of stained glass in the world.

0:22:010:22:06

What were some of his best bargains?

0:22:100:22:13

The Fawsley Hall glass, this wonderful series of heraldic panels,

0:22:130:22:17

early 16th century,

0:22:170:22:19

one family from an early 16th century house in Northamptonshire.

0:22:190:22:23

He pursues them long and hard, from before the war

0:22:230:22:26

until after the war, and gets them really quite cheaply.

0:22:260:22:30

And things like the prophet Jeremiah, from St Denis,

0:22:300:22:33

which he paid £114 for.

0:22:330:22:34

It is from the first Gothic church, built by Abbot Suger,

0:22:340:22:40

this great figure in 12th century French society.

0:22:400:22:43

And it is one of the windows there.

0:22:430:22:45

And of course, at the time, nobody knew it came from there.

0:22:450:22:48

So that was an amazing bargain.

0:22:480:22:50

You can point to the collection and find all sorts of things

0:22:500:22:52

he actually bought really rather well.

0:22:520:22:54

William Burrell taught himself about every aspect of his collection.

0:22:560:23:00

And as his knowledge and his contacts book grew,

0:23:000:23:03

he was able to buy better and better.

0:23:030:23:06

He started with a very curious mind as a child,

0:23:080:23:11

and he never stopped.

0:23:110:23:13

He was always asking dealers,

0:23:130:23:15

and finding out about different things, and he was really interested

0:23:150:23:18

in their provenance, and where they come from, what they meant.

0:23:180:23:23

Burrell sought out a handful

0:23:300:23:32

of exceptional objects with royal connections.

0:23:320:23:35

One piece on display bore witness to a fateful night in English history.

0:23:360:23:40

When I first came to the Burrell Collection it was down in the store.

0:23:440:23:48

I found it and I looked at it and I thought, "What is this?!"

0:23:480:23:52

And it turns out to be the matrimonial bedhead that was

0:23:520:23:57

made for the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves.

0:23:570:24:01

-So they would have slept in this on their wedding night?

-Yes.

0:24:010:24:04

It is political and also slightly erotic.

0:24:040:24:08

-So it is a rare combination, shall we say...

-Interesting combination.

0:24:080:24:13

So in the centre we have got an inscription that actually

0:24:130:24:17

states exactly who Henry is.

0:24:170:24:21

King of England, and of France, Lord of Ireland,

0:24:210:24:24

and the Chief and Supreme Head of the Church of All England.

0:24:240:24:28

-So that is the political bit.

-That is the political bit.

0:24:280:24:32

What is the erotic bit?

0:24:320:24:33

Well, the carving, we have got a grown-up woman on this side

0:24:330:24:36

and the man on your side.

0:24:360:24:39

A very prominent codpiece.

0:24:390:24:41

A very prominent codpiece. Which was fashionable at the time.

0:24:410:24:46

He is holding a large fruit,

0:24:460:24:49

emphasising the fruitfulness of the union.

0:24:490:24:52

And on this side, we have got a very fashionably dressed lady.

0:24:520:24:57

In one hand, the serpent, or the snake, and then the other,

0:24:570:25:00

her right hand, she is holding an upturned sword.

0:25:000:25:03

So as I usually say to the guides here, interpret as desired!

0:25:030:25:08

-So that of course is the idea...

-The idea of virility.

0:25:080:25:11

And this is not of course a rendition of Anne of Cleves,

0:25:110:25:14

she was a rather not very attractive person.

0:25:140:25:16

Well, some of the stories are that they played cards all night.

0:25:160:25:20

We don't know if that is true. We will never know.

0:25:200:25:22

Only the bedhead knows.

0:25:220:25:23

And I find that really exciting,

0:25:230:25:25

that this bedhead was actually there on that night.

0:25:250:25:28

With objects like the king's bedhead,

0:25:330:25:35

Burrell bought his own piece of royal history.

0:25:350:25:38

But he was just as interested in precious things

0:25:380:25:41

used by ordinary people.

0:25:410:25:42

These carvings are some of the few remaining examples

0:25:460:25:49

of a lost mediaeval craft form,

0:25:490:25:51

that had miraculously survived the Reformation.

0:25:510:25:55

Religious sculptures like these

0:26:020:26:04

serve to remind illiterate churchgoers of the Bible stories,

0:26:040:26:08

and were carved from English alabaster in the 14th century.

0:26:080:26:11

Burrell also got his hands on some even rarer alabasters

0:26:150:26:18

designed as prayer objects for the home.

0:26:180:26:20

There are others, and other museums, but this is something that

0:26:230:26:26

-most museums in the world would give anything for.

-Yes.

0:26:260:26:31

This is the head of St John the Baptist, after he was beheaded,

0:26:310:26:36

being carried on a platter.

0:26:360:26:38

At the top, we have got the soul being carried to heaven by angels.

0:26:380:26:42

Below, the resurrecting Christ, coming out of the tomb.

0:26:430:26:49

So it is a very Catholic image and, after the Reformation,

0:26:490:26:53

it would be very dangerous indeed

0:26:530:26:54

to be found with something like this in your home.

0:26:540:26:58

Burrell collected a royal flush of mediaeval artefacts.

0:27:010:27:04

From precious glass, to sculpture and textiles,

0:27:040:27:07

and intricately woven tapestries,

0:27:070:27:09

which had always conferred status in society.

0:27:090:27:12

Perhaps that was why Burrell liked these best of all.

0:27:140:27:17

Yes, he actually says in some of his correspondence

0:27:170:27:21

that he thinks tapestries

0:27:210:27:22

are possibly the most important part of his collection, in his own view.

0:27:220:27:27

This is an allegory, charity overcoming envy.

0:27:280:27:32

So, charity being a virtue is attacking envy,

0:27:320:27:36

who is one of the vices.

0:27:360:27:39

-Obviously managing very well.

-She is, managing very well.

0:27:390:27:42

She is holding a sword and she is just about to strike him down.

0:27:420:27:47

This tapestry is about 500 years old and was made in the area

0:27:510:27:55

nowadays called the southern Netherlands.

0:27:550:27:58

One of the most important tapestry weaving centres

0:27:580:28:02

of the known world at that time.

0:28:020:28:04

Burrell collected more than 200 important tapestries.

0:28:110:28:16

Ranging from the allegorical to the heraldic.

0:28:160:28:21

And the playful.

0:28:210:28:23

I really don't know where to begin with this tapestry.

0:28:270:28:30

There is just so much to see and it just looks so glorious.

0:28:300:28:35

Yes, and it is actually one of our favourites.

0:28:350:28:37

Especially for school parties that come in,

0:28:370:28:40

they absolutely love this tapestry.

0:28:400:28:42

This is called "Preparing To Hunt Rabbits With Ferrets".

0:28:420:28:45

Is it meant to be fun? Are you meant to be looking for things?

0:28:450:28:48

Because I am seeing things all the time

0:28:480:28:50

that I perhaps didn't see two or three minutes ago.

0:28:500:28:53

I think it is meant to be fun.

0:28:530:28:54

It is actually one of three tapestries

0:28:540:28:57

from the same kind of series.

0:28:570:28:59

The other two are in San Francisco and the Louvre in Paris.

0:28:590:29:04

Although it looks quite simple, to tapestry connoisseurs

0:29:040:29:08

this is actually the height of tapestry design.

0:29:080:29:12

And that is because the figures are actually jigsawed together

0:29:120:29:14

to fill the whole space.

0:29:140:29:16

I am sure that sitting her there are lots of things I haven't seen yet.

0:29:160:29:20

As well as rabbit holes you have this strange looking bear.

0:29:200:29:24

Yes, he had a good eye for tapestries. He knew what he wanted.

0:29:240:29:29

As I say, to connoisseurs it is very special.

0:29:290:29:32

What do you think sparks Burrell's love of mediaeval art?

0:29:350:29:39

It is certainly not for the religious input.

0:29:410:29:43

I think the tapestries by and large show that.

0:29:430:29:46

But again it is really sort of Gothic that he is really keen on.

0:29:460:29:51

And probably the reason is that he likes the kind of objects,

0:29:510:29:56

initially anyway, which would furnish

0:29:560:29:59

the kind of house he wants to be in.

0:29:590:30:01

It may be partly an aspiration to kind of have a baronial style,

0:30:010:30:06

which you see from this sort of genuine, old houses.

0:30:060:30:11

That is what I think he likes.

0:30:110:30:13

And I think initially it is a furnishing thing.

0:30:130:30:16

Burrell was eager to settle down.

0:30:220:30:24

He found a suitable wife in Constance Mitchell

0:30:240:30:27

who was also from a Glasgow shipping family.

0:30:270:30:30

And the newlyweds moved into a smart townhouse in Glasgow's West End.

0:30:300:30:36

He called on his friend

0:30:360:30:37

and architect Robert Lorimer to refashion the interiors.

0:30:370:30:42

'I have at last gotten to enthuse a bit over his house.

0:30:420:30:45

'Seeing his Gothic tapestries hung up in his dining room

0:30:450:30:49

'is what did it.

0:30:490:30:50

'His dining room is now to be tapestry all-around.

0:30:500:30:53

'The three Gothic hunting scenes he had in the Glasgow exhibition

0:30:530:30:56

'just fill one side.

0:30:560:30:57

'And he is going to have a trip round the continent in the spring

0:30:570:31:00

'to try to find some more.'

0:31:000:31:02

Soon the house was ready and a baby was on the way.

0:31:020:31:06

William had grand family plans.

0:31:060:31:10

He wanted to father a dynasty of Burrells.

0:31:100:31:14

And the first thing he did, he was delighted, he rushed out,

0:31:140:31:17

and he got Lorimer to make him a beautiful cradle for the baby.

0:31:170:31:21

I do not know how much Constance had to do with it,

0:31:210:31:23

but they went absolutely overboard.

0:31:230:31:26

And the child duly arrived.

0:31:260:31:28

But in those days all births of course took place in the home

0:31:280:31:31

and it turned out that that was a very difficult birth and it was

0:31:310:31:36

not the son and heir that they were hoping for, it was a daughter.

0:31:360:31:39

The Burrells named their daughter Marion.

0:31:430:31:46

But Constance was warned that having another baby would endanger her life.

0:31:460:31:52

William was forced to give up the idea of fathering a dynasty.

0:31:520:31:56

And with his ambitions for a male heir thwarted,

0:31:560:31:59

he threw himself wholeheartedly into his obsession for collecting.

0:31:590:32:04

Astonishingly, for the first 50 years of his life,

0:32:130:32:16

Burrell kept no records of his purchases.

0:32:160:32:19

But as the collection grew,

0:32:190:32:21

he realised he needed to keep track of it.

0:32:210:32:23

From 1911 until he died almost 50 years later, he hand-wrote

0:32:250:32:30

a record of almost every object he bought in one of these 28 notebooks.

0:32:300:32:34

-And this is what, just a jotter?

-Just a school exercise book.

0:32:370:32:42

-That is what he used.

-All in order, all in order.

-That's right.

0:32:420:32:46

1911 to 1914.

0:32:460:32:48

Yes, it gives you the date bought,

0:32:480:32:51

from whom he has bought it, a description.

0:32:510:32:54

-It is the meticulous work of a businessman.

-Very much so.

0:32:540:32:58

If you look at another page, we have got sketches of the things he saw.

0:32:580:33:02

So this is Burrell actually drawing his purchases? Himself!

0:33:020:33:06

Yes, of course, 1911, catalogues did not have photographs,

0:33:060:33:12

so there is nothing to remind you, you have to do sketches,

0:33:120:33:15

have something that reminds you of what you are looking at.

0:33:150:33:18

And of course he buys this piece

0:33:180:33:20

and it is a pretty good drawing, actually.

0:33:200:33:23

So beautifully done, as if he is doing some kind of lecture,

0:33:230:33:26

writing up a lecture.

0:33:260:33:28

That's right.

0:33:280:33:29

I think that's amazing, that he does that.

0:33:290:33:31

He may be amassing a collection,

0:33:310:33:34

but he does not have lots of assistants and staff.

0:33:340:33:36

-He is doing it himself.

-That is right. A very personal thing.

0:33:360:33:40

And that is the nice thing about Burrell.

0:33:400:33:43

Many collectors as rich as he was would buy mountains of stuff,

0:33:430:33:49

-probably not even seeing what they were buying.

-He saw everything.

0:33:490:33:52

-He saw everything.

-And it is completely the opposite

0:33:520:33:55

of what the mythology is about Burrell,

0:33:550:33:57

that he was this magpie who bought everything,

0:33:570:33:59

that it was indiscriminate.

0:33:590:34:00

-Burrell's passion is here in his pencil.

-Yes.

0:34:000:34:03

Burrell's latest passion was for ancient Chinese artefacts.

0:34:080:34:12

1911 was the year he started his purchase books,

0:34:120:34:16

but also a key date in Chinese history.

0:34:160:34:19

When the imperial dynasty fell, China started to fragment,

0:34:190:34:24

and the noble families sold off their collections,

0:34:240:34:27

allowing Western collectors to acquire Chinese art.

0:34:270:34:30

I think this case probably has some of the best ceramics

0:34:350:34:39

in the Burrell collection.

0:34:390:34:42

14th century.

0:34:420:34:44

-Translucent, it is beautiful.

-Absolutely. 14th century porcelain.

0:34:440:34:49

Underglazed copper oxide. Very experimental.

0:34:490:34:52

It is a very difficult oxide to fire correctly.

0:34:520:34:56

Burrell was collecting this, was he, for the sheer beauty of it?

0:34:560:34:59

Or because he knew it was valuable? What was the impetus?

0:34:590:35:04

Again we have to pick up the clues.

0:35:040:35:07

He had a very sort of personal connection with his objects.

0:35:070:35:10

Everything he bought, he looked at, he chose, and he had a very good eye.

0:35:100:35:15

The quality of its manufacture. He was interested in how things were made.

0:35:150:35:19

-How things are... yes.

-And the quality of craftsmanship and it's perfect condition.

0:35:190:35:23

-And it's perfect.

-Perfect condition.

0:35:230:35:25

This is a fantastic example of an eighth-century burial figure

0:35:330:35:39

and objects like this were made specifically as tomb artefacts.

0:35:390:35:43

They were there to serve the dead, not the living.

0:35:430:35:46

So I think what amazed Western collectors was the fact that

0:35:460:35:50

you had so much detail and so much vitality within what were really

0:35:500:35:54

things that would never be seen once they were buried.

0:35:540:35:57

And in terms of Chinese collectors, these would have been taboo.

0:35:590:36:03

So when these were discovered in the 1910s, '20s and '30s,

0:36:030:36:08

from excavated tombs, they were of fascination to Western collectors,

0:36:080:36:12

I think primarily because they hadn't seen anything like this before.

0:36:120:36:17

But obviously it very much followed the Western sculptural tradition.

0:36:170:36:21

Burrell collected more than 1,200 ceramics, bronzes and jades.

0:36:340:36:39

With the Chinese collection spanning each and every dynasty,

0:36:400:36:44

he built up a true connoisseur's set.

0:36:440:36:47

But there was something deeper

0:36:500:36:51

motivating Burrell's compulsive yet careful collecting.

0:36:510:36:55

Before William made his money as a ship owner,

0:37:070:37:10

commissioning and selling ships built here on the River Clyde,

0:37:100:37:14

and even before William's grandfather came to Scotland to try his luck on the waterways,

0:37:140:37:20

the Burrells were landed gentry

0:37:200:37:22

who kept royal company in their native Northumberland

0:37:220:37:25

until the family money was recklessly gambled away.

0:37:250:37:29

Willie Burrell loved stories

0:37:310:37:33

and the family were brought up on this tale

0:37:330:37:36

of how the family wealth had been lost

0:37:360:37:38

and I think this was a great impetus to Willie because first of all he wanted to...

0:37:380:37:43

regain the money which had been lost.

0:37:430:37:47

And later on, he hoped to regain the status.

0:37:470:37:50

Willie Burrell was determined to make the family name great once again.

0:38:070:38:12

He was a romantic.

0:38:160:38:17

We had a hard side and a soft side and he had a very romantic side.

0:38:170:38:21

He loved the stories of Walter Scott and history and pageantry and heraldry.

0:38:210:38:27

And he wanted a setting fitting for the things that he particularly enjoyed.

0:38:270:38:33

This extraordinary place is Hutton Castle.

0:39:140:39:18

William Burrell wanted the perfect home in which to put

0:39:180:39:20

his treasured hoard. This is it.

0:39:200:39:23

He spent 12 years redesigning it within an inch of its life

0:39:230:39:27

and finally, in 1927, he moved in with his wife Constance

0:39:270:39:31

and his daughter Marion.

0:39:310:39:33

It was to be his home for the next 30 years.

0:39:330:39:36

John Pringle worked in Burrell's garden.

0:39:470:39:50

The first time I came here was with the school.

0:39:520:39:55

When I was about 12 I used to come gardening

0:39:550:39:58

from half seven to 12 o'clock.

0:39:580:40:01

-On a Saturday?

-On a Saturday.

0:40:010:40:03

And did Sir William pay you for that?

0:40:030:40:05

Sixpence an hour. We got half a crown each.

0:40:050:40:09

-And did you see Sir William at that time or not?

-At half nine he came out.

0:40:090:40:14

He stayed with us till dinner time, sitting on his shooting stick.

0:40:140:40:18

You saw how many of the different antiques he was putting in here.

0:40:180:40:21

-What was it like?

-Absolutely full of carpets.

0:40:210:40:26

All you could smell was mothballs. But he had everything.

0:40:260:40:29

He had weapons, furniture... I liked the suits of armour.

0:40:290:40:34

They were really great. There was one each side of the door.

0:40:340:40:37

-I always remember that.

-They didn't live in that bit, though, did they?

0:40:370:40:41

No, no, they'd be more up here. This was chock-full of antiques.

0:40:410:40:45

-Right.

-It just looked like a museum. Absolutely beautiful.

0:40:450:40:50

Statues, some furniture but he had everything.

0:40:500:40:54

Burrell had great expectations of his castle.

0:40:590:41:02

And of his only daughter, Marion.

0:41:020:41:05

He had her educated by French governesses

0:41:050:41:08

and enjoyed schooling her in the collection.

0:41:080:41:11

William and Connie took Marion on holidays

0:41:110:41:13

and buying trips to exotic locations.

0:41:130:41:16

Her father was very ambitious and autocratic.

0:41:160:41:21

When she was very young,

0:41:210:41:22

he saw her potential

0:41:220:41:24

and decided that he would mould her

0:41:240:41:28

in his own way.

0:41:280:41:29

Burrell wanted Marion to marry into the aristocracy

0:41:320:41:35

and when she came of age, he spent a fortune on presenting her

0:41:350:41:39

to the pick of the country's most eligible titled bachelors.

0:41:390:41:44

But the millionaire collector was suspicious

0:41:440:41:46

the suitors were after his money

0:41:460:41:49

and no one was good enough for Burrell's daughter.

0:41:490:41:54

She didn't know that her third engagement had been broken

0:41:540:41:57

until she read it in her morning paper.

0:41:570:42:00

Her father had put in a notice

0:42:000:42:02

without a word either to her or to her future husband.

0:42:020:42:07

And so she was absolutely blazing. She said, "Right, that's it.

0:42:070:42:13

"I will never marry." And she jolly well meant it.

0:42:130:42:17

William's grand plans for Marion had failed.

0:42:210:42:24

And her relationship with her parents never fully recovered.

0:42:240:42:28

Connie, it seems,

0:42:290:42:31

couldn't forgive her daughter for the traumatic birth she had endured

0:42:310:42:35

but without a husband or a decent allowance, Marion was bound to her parents.

0:42:350:42:40

Did you ever hear her speaking ill of her parents, though?

0:42:430:42:46

She once said to me in the boiler house...

0:42:470:42:50

she was nearly in tears, you know. "Mum has never loved me."

0:42:520:42:57

I always remember that.

0:42:570:42:59

That's one of the last times I spoke to her at Hutton Castle.

0:42:590:43:03

Today, Hutton Castle is in private hands and is not open to the public.

0:43:080:43:13

But little remains here of the interiors Burrell went to

0:43:130:43:16

so much trouble and expense to create.

0:43:160:43:20

After his death, the castle was stripped of its fixtures and fittings.

0:43:200:43:24

But we can get a glimpse of how he lived from the three rooms

0:43:240:43:27

that have been painstakingly recreated at the Burrell Collection.

0:43:270:43:32

So are these the proportions of the room as it was in Hutton?

0:43:320:43:35

-Yes, they're as near as they could possibly be.

-Height as well?

0:43:350:43:39

Yes, everything. Originally, he'd actually said that

0:43:390:43:42

he would have liked up to 12 of the rooms from Hutton Castle to be

0:43:420:43:46

produced in the museum, which would have included bedrooms as well.

0:43:460:43:49

So this would be incredibly fashionable

0:43:490:43:52

-for a kind of magnate to have a place like this with the room like this.

-Yes.

0:43:520:43:58

I mean, William Randolph Hearst, his homes were like this but larger.

0:43:580:44:03

-And the stained glass, presumably she had saved that stained glass up for Hutton.

-Yes.

0:44:030:44:09

Unfortunately, there was too much to have on display in Hutton,

0:44:090:44:13

even though Hutton was huge.

0:44:130:44:14

I suppose it enlivens the room, you know.

0:44:140:44:17

They were literally showrooms. They were kept locked most of the time.

0:44:170:44:21

They were where he put the stars of his collection

0:44:210:44:25

and important visitors would be brought in and shown around.

0:44:250:44:29

But I don't think that the family would have come in

0:44:290:44:32

and sat around the fire.

0:44:320:44:34

No. Or skited along the table.

0:44:340:44:36

Owning Hutton Castle gave Burrell the chance

0:44:400:44:44

to buy on a far grander scale than before.

0:44:440:44:46

Even in the museum, some objects are so big and delicate

0:44:480:44:52

that they can't be kept on permanent display.

0:44:520:44:54

So it's a real treat for me to get a rare viewing

0:44:550:44:58

of an item that really is a one-off.

0:44:580:45:01

It looks so unprepossessing. It's a bit of gingham at the moment.

0:45:030:45:06

-I feel there is something...

-You will not be disappointed!

0:45:060:45:10

-It is a beautiful thing to see.

-Nothing else like it in here?

0:45:100:45:15

No, not only in here, anywhere.

0:45:150:45:17

The pattern of this carpet was never repeated.

0:45:170:45:20

It is an absolutely unique object.

0:45:200:45:22

Can you line it up against...

0:45:220:45:24

There are water channels being unravelled.

0:45:300:45:34

Fish and duck. In the water channels.

0:45:340:45:39

Lots of trees and flowers.

0:45:390:45:41

-There we are. Look at that.

-Gosh!

0:45:510:45:54

So what are we actually seeing here?

0:45:580:46:00

This is the famous Wagner Garden Carpet.

0:46:000:46:03

It's a Persian carpet laid out as a walled garden.

0:46:030:46:07

The carpet makers and designers are trying to create a garden

0:46:100:46:14

that represents the earthly paradise

0:46:140:46:17

that is a mirror of the heavenly one.

0:46:170:46:21

It is obviously a thing of infinite beauty.

0:46:210:46:23

-Isn't it? Do you want to get closer?

-How close can I get, though?

0:46:230:46:27

-If you take your shoes off you can go right up to the edge.

-OK.

0:46:270:46:31

-So are we allowed to walk on the edge?

-No, just on the tarpaulin.

0:46:310:46:38

But you can lean over if you like, it's an amazing object.

0:46:380:46:42

What are the main symbols that you would be

0:46:480:46:50

looking for in a carpet like this. What does it tell you?

0:46:500:46:53

If you sit just a metre in, you get this amazing panoramic feel

0:46:530:46:58

that you are in a garden, as opposed to on a garden.

0:46:580:47:01

All the trees in the outer...

0:47:010:47:04

-Follow a line.

-Follow a line.

0:47:040:47:07

As you get to the centre of the carpet,

0:47:070:47:10

the trees start to change direction.

0:47:100:47:13

-Look at these birds, they are beautiful.

-Storks.

0:47:130:47:16

We've got ducks up there flying.

0:47:170:47:19

And you can see there are lots of little tiny repairs.

0:47:210:47:25

It is very rare to come across an early 17th century that has no

0:47:250:47:30

repairs at all. That means it was never used.

0:47:300:47:33

There is a lot of quirky humour in it,

0:47:340:47:37

in the way they have depicted the animals and their relationships.

0:47:370:47:41

-There is a lot of fun.

-I think my favourite is the little rabbits.

0:47:410:47:44

The rabbits, yes.

0:47:440:47:46

Burrell gave this beautiful piece pride of place in the drawing room

0:47:510:47:54

of Hutton Castle.

0:47:540:47:56

It is just one of over 400 Persian

0:47:560:47:59

and Islamic artefacts that he amassed.

0:47:590:48:02

Well, of course, in addition to the carpets, the other Islamic textiles

0:48:110:48:15

that Burrell lived with are these suzanis.

0:48:150:48:18

They are wall-hangings.

0:48:180:48:20

Burrell used them as bedspreads.

0:48:200:48:24

-What, at Hutton Castle?

-Yes.

0:48:240:48:26

It is extraordinary because at the moment,

0:48:260:48:28

suzanis are incredibly popular. Designers use them all the time.

0:48:280:48:32

But they are factory made. But this is a different thing.

0:48:320:48:34

Very different.

0:48:340:48:36

These are made by women at home.

0:48:360:48:38

The traditions starts in the mid-18th century of producing suzanis

0:48:380:48:43

as dowry pieces. So it is loaded with symbolism and beauty.

0:48:430:48:48

So that she shows off in her new marital home how important she was

0:48:480:48:53

and loved by her family.

0:48:530:48:55

The tulip is very important in Turkish life.

0:48:570:49:01

The tulip represents God.

0:49:010:49:04

At the very top roundel,

0:49:040:49:05

can you see the serrated leaves that project out from the centre?

0:49:050:49:10

These represent kitchen knives disguised here!

0:49:100:49:15

Kitchen knives are very useful as a domestic tool and for protection.

0:49:150:49:20

So you can see the beliefs being loaded onto this beautiful suzani.

0:49:200:49:25

And of course, they invested a lifetime's effort in producing them.

0:49:250:49:31

This is one of the ones that was bought in London in May 1925.

0:49:310:49:36

And this was all because he wanted to cover the beds at Hutton Castle?

0:49:360:49:39

He understood them to be a bedspread.

0:49:390:49:41

So I think he would be even more pleased to discover the whole story

0:49:410:49:45

behind them. They are actually wall hangings,

0:49:450:49:48

to decorate the interior walls of the bride's room in her new marital home.

0:49:480:49:55

Burrell was king of his castle, surrounded by his treasures.

0:50:070:50:11

Soon the castle was full,

0:50:110:50:13

packed to the gunwales with stained glass, carpets and furniture.

0:50:130:50:16

But Sir William kept on going. Perhaps by now he was obsessed.

0:50:160:50:21

A grand old man who still loved the thrill of the chase.

0:50:210:50:25

But as he entered his 70s, Burrell began to worry about what

0:50:290:50:33

would happen to his lifetime's work after his death.

0:50:330:50:37

Alive, Burrell was curator of his own collection,

0:50:380:50:42

but without him, who would save his precious hoard from being disbursed?

0:50:420:50:46

His relationship with his only child was in tatters.

0:50:470:50:50

To his mind, Burrell effectively had no heir.

0:50:500:50:54

He realised the only way to keep the collection together

0:50:550:50:59

and secure his lasting reputation was to gift it to the public.

0:50:590:51:04

Eventually, he decided to give the entire collection to Glasgow,

0:51:040:51:08

the city that made his fortune.

0:51:080:51:10

And now Burrell's collection was bound for public display, he started

0:51:120:51:17

to buy spectacular objects that would impress visitors to a museum.

0:51:170:51:21

Perhaps one of the most famous items in the Burrell collection...

0:51:220:51:26

-Certainly one of the most popular, apparently.

-Absolutely.

0:51:260:51:29

He is sitting out, he is highly glazed, is that why

0:51:290:51:32

he can sit out and there's not a worry if somebody touches him?

0:51:320:51:35

Absolutely, but of course you should never touch items.

0:51:350:51:39

Ceramics are very robust.

0:51:390:51:41

The only problem is when you drop them.

0:51:410:51:44

But otherwise, they'll put up with temperature changes,

0:51:440:51:47

they'll put up with sunlight and they will put up with people

0:51:470:51:50

-touching them because that glaze is very robust.

-When does he buy this?

0:51:500:51:55

Burrell buys this in December 1943.

0:51:550:51:58

It is really on the cusp of his gifting the collection to the

0:51:580:52:03

-city of Glasgow.

-This is the signal that he is no longer domestic?

0:52:030:52:06

That is right. He's moving from being a private collector to collecting for a museum.

0:52:060:52:12

We are looking at larger scale objects,

0:52:120:52:15

things that will now form part of a national collection.

0:52:150:52:19

So how many pieces in all, are in Burrell's china...?

0:52:210:52:24

Now Burrell had even grander plans for his collection.

0:52:260:52:30

He wanted to tell the full story of civilisation

0:52:300:52:33

and so in the last ten years of his life, he tried to fill

0:52:330:52:36

in the gaps with works from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

0:52:360:52:40

But as well as being a completist Burrell was also an opportunist.

0:52:420:52:48

When more extravagant collectors such as William Randolph Hearst

0:52:480:52:52

were forced to sell off large portions of their hoards

0:52:520:52:55

in the Depression in the 1930s, the more cautious Burrell

0:52:550:52:58

was ready to buy.

0:52:580:52:59

What I love about the Burrell is you have these series of lovely,

0:53:000:53:04

-welcoming doors.

-Absolutely.

-Each one, different.

0:53:040:53:10

This one is just amazing. It still seems to me jaw dropping.

0:53:100:53:16

Well, they are not just threshold points, are they?

0:53:160:53:21

They are sort of entrance and egress points.

0:53:210:53:23

Here, this is a classic example of an English 16th century castle

0:53:230:53:27

entrance which was meant to impress.

0:53:270:53:29

-It comes from Hornby Castle in Yorkshire.

-Where did he get it?

0:53:290:53:33

He got it from Randolph Hearst's collection.

0:53:330:53:35

It was part of a job lot of stonework,

0:53:350:53:37

incorporating some great Xanadu, one of the great Hearstian buildings.

0:53:370:53:41

But of course, Hearst's empire collapsed so it all

0:53:410:53:44

came on the market and Burrell bought the whole collection for £600.

0:53:440:53:48

He bought this one on its own for £150,

0:53:480:53:52

a fraction of what Hearst must have paid for it.

0:53:520:53:54

An absolute fraction.

0:53:540:53:57

And Burrell eventually wanted this to be incorporated in whatever

0:53:570:54:01

-building housed the Burrell?

-Absolutely, absolutely.

0:54:010:54:04

It is a kind of triumphant frontispiece to the collection.

0:54:040:54:07

A combination of object, landscape, architecture. It is perfect.

0:54:070:54:10

The architectural stonework Burrell snapped up from Hearst's sale,

0:54:210:54:26

now forms one of the most arresting features of the collection.

0:54:260:54:30

He had the foresight to buy for the very fabric of a building

0:54:300:54:34

he would never see.

0:54:340:54:36

And Burrell kept on buying until the very end.

0:54:400:54:43

This is a very poignant document

0:54:460:54:48

because this is the last of Burrell's purchase books.

0:54:480:54:51

It is from 1955 to 1957.

0:54:510:54:55

Gosh, you can see his annotations of his sums of money.

0:54:550:54:59

-His running totals, yes.

-Still. In 1955 he was 95?

-Yes.

0:54:590:55:05

-It still reads like a ledger book.

-Greco-Egyptian statuette.

0:55:050:55:09

-Gosh, he is buying a lot of Egyptian stuff.

-He is.

0:55:090:55:13

He is filling out the collection at this stage.

0:55:130:55:15

Henry VIII oak games table from Sotheby's, via Partridge and Sons.

0:55:150:55:20

That reads like a catalogue entry.

0:55:200:55:22

I think he was quite keen to get the accurate descriptions in.

0:55:220:55:26

Look at this. Gosh, this are his final entries.

0:55:260:55:32

-You can see the writing has all changed.

-Yes, yes.

0:55:330:55:38

This is the end of a life of collecting.

0:55:400:55:42

But the mind is as sharp as ever to the end.

0:55:440:55:48

There is an interesting comment said by Murray Adams-Acton,

0:55:480:55:53

one of his agents, who wrote this letter saying,

0:55:530:55:56

"I have heard he has stopped collecting.

0:55:560:55:59

"Well, if so, he hasn't done too badly."

0:55:590:56:02

And I think that is a pretty good epitaph.

0:56:020:56:04

-Burrell would have liked that.

-I think he would have done.

0:56:040:56:08

William Burrell died at Hutton Castle in 1958.

0:56:110:56:15

He had lived for almost 100 years and amassed a huge

0:56:150:56:20

and extraordinary collection,

0:56:200:56:22

without inherited money or the vast fortune of a Hearst or a Frick.

0:56:220:56:27

Burrell left it all to the people of Glasgow.

0:56:380:56:40

But the stipulations he imposed meant the collection did not

0:56:410:56:45

find a home of its own for decades.

0:56:450:56:47

It wasn't until 1983 that the Burrell Collection finally

0:56:490:56:53

opened its Tudor castle doors to the public.

0:56:530:56:56

Because it is the collection of one man.

0:56:590:57:02

And I just love being able to see him reflected in the tapestries,

0:57:030:57:09

in the stained glass, the little jokey things that he liked.

0:57:090:57:12

The Madonnas and church things that he liked.

0:57:120:57:15

The human aspect of people working and people living

0:57:150:57:20

and this is what he cared about.

0:57:200:57:22

That's what I love about the collection.

0:57:220:57:24

Collecting was William Burrell's abiding passion

0:57:380:57:41

and the world was his oyster.

0:57:410:57:43

Like the American magnates such as Frick,

0:57:430:57:45

he saw his route to greatness being through art.

0:57:450:57:48

He did not want to be defined as a man who made his fortune by buying

0:57:480:57:51

and selling cargo ships, but rather as a man of culture and learning.

0:57:510:57:55

He may seem elusive because he never wrote about his artefacts.

0:57:550:57:59

Except he did, in his purchase books. And he is here.

0:57:590:58:02

This is his monument.

0:58:020:58:04

The collection was his gift to us

0:58:040:58:07

and there will never be another one like it.

0:58:070:58:09

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:350:58:38

William Burrell made a fortune out of shipping and spent it on art. Over his long life, he assembled one of the most remarkable private collections of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics and stained glass in the world and in 1944 he donated it all - over 9,000 objects - to the city of Glasgow. The Burrell Collection finally opened to the public in 1983, but the building that bears his name contains no tribute to Burrell and he never commissioned a portrait of himself.

Kirsty Wark tells the story of the self-effacing collector and tours the highlights of his collection in the company of its curators.


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