GAZE around the walls of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow and chances are your eyes will fall upon a painting that has been acquired thanks to the Hamilton Bequest, a trust dating back almost a century.

They include world-renowned works by prominent Glasgow Boys member William Kennedy, Scottish Colourist Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell and painter Joan Eardley as well as pieces such as Monet's View of Ventimiglia and The Young Girls by American Impressionist Mary Cassatt.

The first of two final paintings – taking the total to 90 since the Hamilton Bequest began in 1927 – has been newly unveiled at Kelvingrove. Glasgow artist Victoria Morton's Soliton will hang at the gallery's south east stairs next to Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross.

A second painting by Morton, Photosynthesis, has also been purchased for the Glasgow Museums collection through the bequest and will go on show in a three-year rotation with Soliton. Photosynthesis is currently available for viewing on request at the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.

Glasgow School of Art graduate Morton has been a regular visitor to Kelvingrove throughout her childhood and adult life, but never expected to one day have a piece hanging in the gallery.

"I'm absolutely delighted," she says. "It was a real surprise. I am aware of the collection in Kelvingrove and having grown up in Glasgow spent a lot of time visiting it. I was taken aback because I hadn't quite realised that this was where they were planning to put it."

The idea for the Hamilton Bequest was first conceived in 1893 as plans for Kelvingrove, opened in 1901, began to take shape. The donors were Glasgow storekeeper John Hamilton and his two sisters Elizabeth Millar Hamilton and Christina Brown Primrose Hamilton.

After his death in 1904, John left his estate to his sisters on the agreement that when they died, the proceeds be used to buy oil paintings for Kelvingrove to grow its collection. The bequest didn't come into effect until 1927 when the last surviving sibling, Christina, passed away.

The sisters added their own estates to their brother's creating a substantial bequest of £60,000. In recent years, the trust has partnered with other funding bodies such as the Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and private donors to acquire works for the collection.

When choosing the final painting for Kelvingrove, the Hamilton Bequest and Glasgow Museums wanted to champion a local, living and contemporary Scottish artist. It also felt fitting to use this last purchase to help address a historic gender imbalance within the collection.

Jo Meacock, curator of British Art at Glasgow Museums, was part of the selection committee that visited Morton at her work space in Wasps Artists' Studios.

"We were interested in collecting the work of a female artist because there is a real gender imbalance in our collections, a historical one, that we are now trying to address," she says. "Only around 7-8 per cent of our art collection is by female artists.

"It is hard to work out exactly because some of our historic collection is anonymous, although within that we are presuming it was probably a man. We felt it would be a meaningful gesture to end the bequest by purchasing a work by a female, local Glasgow artist who is still active in the city."

Morton ticked all the boxes. "Victoria Morton's name came up among a number of other artists," says Meacock. "What we were struck by in her work is that she very much responds to previous art in what she does.

"As an art student, she came to Kelvingrove a lot and was particularly inspired by the Scottish Colourists and our French Impressionist collection. When you look at the colours in her work and the broken brush work you can see the lineage where she is looking back to past master examples.

"In that way, she tied everything together. There was quite a few key works by Scottish Colourists and French Impressionists that we purchased through the bequest and so she is drawing together multiple interests while bringing it all up to date."

In the end, they purchased two pieces as Meacock explains. "Soliton is the first in a series of five and Photosynthesis is the last," she says. "We couldn't make our minds up between the two. We loved them both, so were honest and said, 'Is there any way we can make this happen?'"

The paintings need to be viewed in situ to appreciate the scale and impact. "Standing in front of them, you are hit by the colour and the forms," says Meacock. "It is very much a sensory experience."

Morton's paintings are closely connected to her practice as a musician (she sings as well as playing bass recorder, piano and analogue synthesizer). Working through painting, sculpture, found objects, photography and sound, the artist explores colour perception, expression and non-verbal communication.

"They were very open-minded," says Morton, recalling her meeting with the trustees and curators. "Some of my work is not immediately what it appears to be initially. They listened and were interested in the ideas behind it as much as how it looked."

Soliton and Photosynthesis – both oil on canvas – come from a five-strong series of paintings that Morton produced for a 2014 exhibition at The Modern Institute in Aird's Lane, Glasgow.

"They relate to each other but are very different in terms of how they look," she says. "Soliton is a much more abstract looking painting with large expanses of green and some fine details. It is a painting to be experienced physically.

"Photosynthesis is almost like a visual puzzle to solve. It is a very busy and detailed composition. The two pieces work off each other. There was a lot of discussion and that's when it got exciting because they couldn't decide between one or the other."

Morton talks animatedly about the idea behind the quintet of paintings. "I wanted to make a series of works where people could just walk in and experience them all at once, almost like they were different movements in a piece of music," she says.

"I was thinking about broad and universal themes like light and sound and the physics of sound. The name Soliton comes from a type of wave form that exists in nature and also in physics. I was interested in that sound aspect because I work with music as well.

"Soliton is quite a sensory piece. There is a direct connection to music and waveforms. I wanted to make a large scale, abstract expressionist painting that relates to real experiences. I love colour and the effect it has. Colour is a type of waveform, so there are different frequencies at play.

"There is not one fixed thing people are supposed to see when they look at it. It is not about seeing something; it is more about feeling something."

Morton's love of music is front and centre throughout. "Her works very much respond to music because she is a musician," says Meacock. "She explores in her paintings the way that art can affect you in an emotive and sensual way that is akin to music.

"When she used to come to Kelvingrove, Victoria loved listening to the organ and would sketch on the balcony. She was very much aware of the architecture, the organ and all of it working together. So, she really wanted her work to be hung in that space."

A lot of thought went into where Soliton would hang in Kelvingrove. "I always think it is interesting how artworks respond to each other," says Meacock. "Even hanging them in a certain place and how they connect with the works beside them, I enjoy seeing these conversations happening.

"We had thought at one point of hanging Victoria's paintings in Looking at Art downstairs in Kelvingrove, but she didn't like this idea at all because the space has quite low ceilings and she felt it would be claustrophobic. She was completely right.

"Where the painting is now hanging, it works with the symmetry of the architecture. It is hanging beside Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross which I think is fantastic because that was quite a controversial purchase in its day.

"It is quite controversial to hang a contemporary artwork in Kelvingrove because a lot of people expect it to be more traditional and where we hang our historic collection, but we are trying to introduce more contemporary art to create discussion and dialogue. It is a bold move."

Meacock admits, though, that it is a bittersweet moment to mark the end of the Hamilton Bequest. "We are sometimes gifted works or bequeathed a painting collection, but to be bequeathed someone's estate to buy works and fill gaps in the collection has been amazing," she says.

"It has been invaluable to us as we have gone out and sought to enhance our collection with new acquisitions. We are celebrating this tremendous achievement covering 92 years and 90 paintings, but it is sad it has come to an end."

Victoria Morton will be giving a free talk on Soliton at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on Tuesday (April 23) at 2pm. Visit