The Art of Power: Treasures from the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart
Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow, 31 March 2017 — 14 January 2018
Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, 31 March 2017 — 14 January 2018
Curated by Caitlin Blackwell and Peter Black
This new exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see major paintings from the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. Merging art, biography and cultural history, Art of Power uncovers the fascinating Enlightenment figure, John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute, and his collection of rarely-seen masterpieces.
The exhibition is split across two venues—The Hunterian and Mount Stuart—offering visitors the chance to experience two world-class collections. Art of Power: Treasures from Mount Stuart marks the tercentenary of Mount Stuart, an architectural jewel on the Isle of Bute which houses the Bute Collection, one of the foremost private collections of artworks and artefacts in the UK.
The exhibition reveals a selection of rarely-seen masterpieces collected by the fascinating Enlightenment figure, John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute (1713–1792), the first Scottish-born Prime Minister and ‘favourite’ of George III. After retiring from politics, Bute amassed a great art collection, which was particularly renowned for its Dutch and Flemish paintings. This major exhibition brings a selection of European and British masterpieces from the Bute Collection to the Hunterian Art Gallery, many of which have not been on public display in over a century.
Highlights include works by Dutch Golden Age masters like Jan Steen and Jacob van Ruisdael, Grand Manner portraits by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds and Allan Ramsay, and Italianate landscapes and history subjects by Claude Lorrain and Veronese. A portion of these works will be displayed at the Hunterian, along with works on paper, including botanical illustrations and satirical engravings from the collection. The remainder of the paintings will be displayed at Mount Stuart, where they will be accompanied by historical artefacts, such as costume, letters, and rare books.
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Caitlin Blackwell, Peter Black, and Oliver Cox, Art of Power: Masterpieces from the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart (New York: Prestel, 2017), 144 pages, ISBN: 978 37913 56631, $50.
John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, was one of history’s most enthusiastic art collectors. As tutor to Prince George, Bute became indispensable to the royal household. Soon after his accession to the throne, the King made Bute Prime Minister―a career that was cut short after the Peace of Paris in 1763.
Forced out of London by an angry mob, Bute retired to an estate at Luton, where he spent the rest of his years in private study and amassing a collection of 500 paintings, including major works by Venetian painters such as Tintoretto, Bordone, and Veronese. Bute had a special interest in Dutch and Flemish pictures, building the greatest collection of its kind in Britain. This book features over thirty masterpieces, mainly genre paintings and landscapes, and including jewel-like landscapes by Brueghel and Savery. The collection is housed at the Bute family’s Scottish seat, Mount Stuart, on the Isle of Bute. Essays by leading scholars delve into the history of Bute’s collection, focusing on his relationship with King George III, and his wide ranging passions, which resulted in rooms filled floor to ceiling with works of art.
Caitlin Blackwell is the inaugural Bute Fellow at Mount Stuart, which is located on the Isle of Bute off the coast of Scotland. Peter Black is curator at the Hunterian and has published widely on Dutch and Flemish art. Oliver Cox is Heritage Engagement Fellow at the University of Oxford.
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From CODART, with text from Peter Black, Curator of Dutch and Flemish Paintings and Prints, Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery (12 December 2016). . .
The Bute Collection is housed at Mount Stuart (1880–1912), the Gothic Revival Palace by Robert Rowand Anderson on the Isle of Bute. It contains, besides a truly great collection of 18th-century portraits, important Dutch and Flemish works that were collected in the 1760s and 1770s by John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute (1713–1792). Bute was tutor to King George III when he was Prince of Wales, advising him, among other things, on acquisitions for the royal collection. Soon after the coronation in 1760, Bute was given power by his former pupil, becoming Prime Minister in 1762. His main business was to negotiate the Peace of Paris, ending the Seven Years’ War. Within one year, however, Bute resigned and was forced to leave London to escape the London mob. He bought a country house at Luton, which he had remodeled by Adam, and landscaped by Capability Brown. There he settled down to become the most important British collector of Dutch paintings, assembling for the purpose a library and collection of prints and drawings (dispersed 1794–1809). At the time of his death, there were 500 works in the house. Bute had more than a penchant for Venetian art and the grand rooms on the ground floor were hung with works by Tintoretto, Veronese and Bordone, as well as some of the finest examples of the work of Francesco Zuccarelli. Masterpieces by Dutch artists in the library included a magnificent Windy Autumn Day landscape by Berchem (Mount Stuart), and Cuyp’s River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants (now in the National Gallery, London). That painting is said to have started the craze for Cuyp among British collectors when Bute acquired it in the early 1760s. The smaller Dutch paintings were accommodated on the upper floor, clustered in dense thematic hangs in the bedrooms and dressing rooms.
The exhibition of 26 pictures in Glasgow University provides a window onto the riches of Mount Stuart, which can be visited in a day-trip by train and ferry from Glasgow. They are generally smaller works, including jewel-like landscapes by Savery, De Momper/Brueghel, Jan van der Heyden, Cuyp, Berchem, and Ruisdael, as well as genre scenes by Steen, Teniers, Verelst, Metsu and Bega. Visitors to Mount Stuart will see the extraordinary collection of family portraits by Batoni, Ramsay and Reynolds as well as works by Hobbema, Steen, Willem van Herp and Pieter van Slingelandt.
Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute (Wikimedia Commons, July 2006).