FAMOUS Glasgow artist Alasdair Gray’s oil painting of Cowcaddens has been added to the city’s museums collection.

The iconic Cowcaddens Streetscape in the Fifties is one of his best-known works and what he called his “best big oil painting”.

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

Before it is displayed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum 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. 

Glasgow Times: Alasdair Gray with the painting, Cowcaddens Streetscape in the FiftiesAlasdair Gray with the painting, Cowcaddens Streetscape in the Fifties (Image: Newsquest)

Bailie Annette Christie, chairperson 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.”

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.”

Glasgow Times: Alasdair Gray, who died in 2019Alasdair Gray, who died in 2019 (Image: Glasgow Museums)

A spokesperson for 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.”

A spokesperson for the Alasdair Gray Archive said: “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.”

Painted in 1964, and previously owned by Gray’s friend Angela Mullan, it was a key part of the artist’s retrospective, From The Personal To The Universal, which was curated by Sorcha Dallas at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in 2014.

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Based on sketches and ideas for the Monkland Canal picture Alasdair Gray had given up trying to paint as a third-year art student, it shows a sliding viewpoint with Port Dundas to the north and St Aloysius Church to the south.

The addition to Glasgow Life Museums has been made possible through the generous support of The National Fund for Acquisitions, administered with Scottish Government funding by National Museums Scotland.

Gray, who was born in 1934 and died in 2019, grew up in Riddrie in the East End and attended Glasgow School of Art in the 1950s.

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

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

In his autobiography A Life in Pictures, he wrote: “One day Mum put some of my scribblings in a handbag and took me by tram to Kelvingrove.

“She had read in a newspaper that Miss Jean Irwin held an art class on Saturday mornings in Kelvingrove… I drifted around looking at what these kids painted while Mum showed my scribbles to Miss Irwin, who let me join her class.

“For the next five years, Saturday mornings were my happiest times.”