Glasgow Life Museums has acquired what is considered legendary Scottish artist Alasdair Gray's “most significant painting".

Gray’s iconic painting, Cowcaddens Streetscape in the Fifties, has been added to Glasgow Life Museums’ internationally significant collection of art.

Painted in 1964, the Glasgow-born artist and writer referred to it as “my best big oil painting”.

The work was also a key part of Gray’s retrospective – From The Personal To The Universal – which ran at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum from late 2014 to early 2015.  

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Cowcaddens shows life in an area of Glasgow where the landscape and community changed radically post-war.

The work captures the look and feel of daily life in Cowcaddens and is a powerful way of engaging with Glasgow’s past. It highlights how buildings, streets and people give the place its character. 

Before going on display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Life Museums confirmed that the painting will be conserved at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where academics and fans will be able to see it through tours and research appointments. 

Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “This painting is a remarkable addition to our collection of works by the legendary Alasdair Gray. It is a powerful image of Glasgow by an artist with strong links to the city and belongs in a public collection where Glaswegians and visitors can enjoy it. Acquisitions like this strengthen Glasgow’s world-class museum collections. They also help people to get involved in and feel inspired by the culture our city has to offer.”

The Herald: Alasdair GrayAlasdair Gray

Hazel Williamson, National Fund for Acquisitions Manager, said: “We’re delighted to support the acquisition of this important work by Alasdair Gray, one of the most significant figures in Scottish art and literature during the post-war era. His art and writing articulated the identity of Glasgow and its people, and it is therefore particularly fitting that the painting should find a home in the city collection.”

The Estate of Alasdair Gray said: “I am thankful for the City of Glasgow purchasing the Cowcaddens Streetscape on behalf of the citizens of Glasgow, Scotland and art lovers around the world. The mural is bold and innovative in its use of altered perspective and time shift to portray the city and the stages of life of its inhabitants.”

The Alasdair Gray Archive said: “The Alasdair Gray Archive (AGA) is delighted that Glasgow Life Museums has acquired ‘Cowcaddens Streetscape in the Fifties’.This is Alasdair Gray’s most significant painting, and it is timely that it is now housed within the city’s main public galleries. This work was inspired by the landscape of Garnethill and the canal near where AGA is based at Applecross.”

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Alasdair Gray was one of Scotland’s most multi-talented artists.

He was born in Riddrie in the east end of Glasgow and attended The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in the 1950s.

Cowcaddens is a significant example of his painting within the decade following his graduation from GSA in 1957.

Gray was a prolific poet, playwright, novelist, painter, and printmaker whose work continues to be celebrated in books, exhibitions, conferences, and the annual Gray Day (February 25).

He credited his fledging love of painting to a weekend art class at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. 

The addition of Cowcaddens enhances the holdings that were previously acquired or gifted from the artist to Glasgow Life Museums. This includes City Recorder (1977–78) and the Moira McAlpine Bequest 2015.

It joins artworks in the collection by his peers and friends at GSA – Carole Gibbons and Alan Fletcher – and works relating to the documentation of Glasgow through the fine art holdings.

The announcement that Glasgow Life Museums has acquired Cowcaddens comes after the big screen adaption of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel Poor Things received its world premiere at The 80th annual Venice International Film Festival. 

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos' new film received a eight-minute-long standing ovation after the premiere, with Hollywood website Deadline calling the post-screening ovation "one of the most enthusiastic responses to a film some Venice festgoers have ever seen". 

Set in the 19th century and borrowing from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Gray's Guardian Fiction Prize-winning novel centres on Bella Baxter, who is brought back to life after the brain of a fetus is placed in her skull by a scientist in late-Victorian Glasgow.