2003 was the centenary of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), the renowned American painter, print-maker, designer and outspoken champion of “art for art’s sake”.
The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery has the finest collection of Whistler’s work outside the USA, while the University Library holds a major Whistler archive, including an electronic edition of the artist’s copious correspondence. In recognition of this exceptional resource, a Glasgow city-wide festival celebrating Whistler’s art and influence was held throughout 2003.
Whistler borrowed musical terminology for the titles of some of his works to assert the independence of his art, like music, from the conventions of meaning. Inspired by his art and stance, Claude Debussy appropriated visual imagery to assert his independence from the French musical tradition.
In September 2003, Music-Makers, in collaboration with the University’s Music Department, presented “Musical Reflections”, a series of 3 concerts which explored some of the connections between Whistler’s art and music.
The concerts were held in the University’s Concert Hall, the prime venue for regular lunchtime concerts organised by the Music Department, which is located within the University’s impressive, neo-Gothic main building (the Gilbert Scott Building) with its landmark bell tower. The building also houses the Bute Hall, used for graduation ceremonies, the University Chapel, and the Hunterian Museum, Scotland’s oldest public museum, which was established in 1807 by William Hunter, one of the University’s most famous alumni and a leading anatomist.
The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 at the suggestion of King James II. It is the second oldest university in Scotland, after St Andrews, and the fourth-oldest in the English-speaking world. Originally an ecclesiastical foundation associated with Glasgow Cathedral, it was initially accommodated within buildings in the precincts of the cathedral, before being granted land in the High Street. In 1870, due to its need for expansion, the University was re-located to its present site in Gilmorehill in the West End of Glasgow. The new-build campus was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878), a leading figure in the Gothic Revival movement.
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