Remarkable new national art collection captures the grit and glory of life along Scotland’s coastline

The Scottish Maritime Museum will unveil a remarkable new national art collection featuring works by artists such as FCB Cadell, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Muirhead Bone, Kate Downie and John Bellany in a major art exhibition opening on Friday 1st June.

‘Maritime Perspectives: Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation’, which will run at the Scottish Maritime Museum on the Harbourside in Irvine, North Ayrshire, until Sunday 21st October, will be the first full showing for the new art collection which captures life along Scotland’s coastline in all its grit and glory.

The exhibition will feature over 80 works gathered for the collection over the last three years through SMMart, an ambitious project to create a nationally significant art collection to enrich the nationally recognised maritime heritage at the Museum.

The SMMart project, which was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, with further support from Art Fund and the National Fund for Acquisitions, has been led by the Museum’s first Curator of Art, Fiona Greer. Fiona’s appointment was also made possible by the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.

‘Maritime Perspectives: Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation’ will feature the oldest painting acquired to date, ‘On the Clyde’ painted by James Francis Williams in 1830, through to early 21st century pieces. Together, the works exploit a wide range of mediums from oil painting, watercolour, sketching and photography through to sculpture and mixed media.

Striking scenes from the heavy industries of oil and shipbuilding will sit side by side with tranquil scenes of fishing boats and travel posters promoting days out ‘doon the watter’. Haunting memorials to lives lost on dangerous seas in both war and peacetime will juxtapose with island seascapes.

As part of a new Art Fund RA250 programme celebrating works by Royal Academician artists, the exhibition will also feature a display of recently acquired works by William Lionel Wyllie RA including ‘The Grand Fleet in the Firth of Forth’ after the Armistice.


Announcing ‘Maritime Perspectives: Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation’ David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, says:

“With the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, Art Fund and the National Fund for Acquisitions, we are delighted to unveil a new, exciting and eclectic art collection of national standing.

“The new art collection adds great depth, colour and interpretation to our fascinating maritime heritage collection here at the Museum. We look forward to developing the new collection over coming years both as an added attraction for visitors coming to experience the maritime heritage as well as those coming to explore it in its own right.”


Fiona Greer, Curator of Art, Scottish Maritime Museum, adds:

“A vivid portrayal of life for those living and working around Scotland’s coastline, ‘Maritime Perspectives: Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation’ will evoke a host of emotions.

“The beauty and brutality of life in the shipyards of the West of Scotland is writ large, for example, with ‘Building a Liner at Greenock’ by Muirhead Bone; ‘Figure of a Shipbuilder’ by Benno Schotz; and ‘The Hole Borer’ by Tom McKendrick. Who couldn’t be moved too looking upon the last remaining remnants of ‘Paper Boat’, George Wyllie’s monumental sculptural memorial to Glasgow’s lost shipbuilding industry.

“Looking to the East coast, the vibrant, uplifting colours of ‘The Dawn Pearl at Port Seton Harbour’, one of John Bellany’s more traditional works, contrast with the hues of stormy seas and haunting war scenes in ‘The Grand Fleet in the Firth of Forth’ after the Armistice by William Lionel Wyllie. Drawn from rare female residencies on oil platforms in the North Sea, ‘Aberdeen Harbour’ by Sue Jane Taylor and ‘Mural Design No.1’ by Kate Downie capture the elemental energy of life on the rigs.

“Taking in the Islands, Orkney artist Sylvia Wishart’s ‘Trawler 1’ evokes the sadness of shipwreck waters and Frances Walker’s ‘Leaving Roan’ pictures the Pentland Firth island once alive with inhabitants now deserted. Will Maclean’s ‘Black Vessel Foundering’ remembers the terrible conditions for emigrants leaving Scottish waters in the 19th century, here the Exmouth Castle which wrecked off Islay in 1847 with 254 lives lost.

“The world-renowned sailing waters off the West of Scotland are captured beautifully by FCB Cadell in ‘The Pier at Cove - Loch Long’, a rare example of his works to feature a boat, and a series of expressive travel posters. Altogether, the exhibition is a unique and rewarding voyage on Scottish waters.”


Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, says:

“It’s thanks to players of the National Lottery that these diverse artworks have been brought together to form a new national collection. Not only are they individually important pieces, but together they tell a fascinating story of coastal life around Scotland which is sure to delight visitors from near and far.”


Dr Hazel Williamson, National Fund for Acquisitions Manager, adds:

“This exhibition brings together a wonderful collection of maritime art. We are very pleased that the National Fund for Acquisitions has been able to assist the development of that collection through financial support for several of the acquisitions.” 

‘Maritime Perspectives: Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation’ will go on show across the Scottish Maritime Museum’s vast, A listed Linthouse, itself a former shipyard building. The exhibition follows ‘Shipyard’, a major exhibition by Scottish artist and broadcaster Lachlan Goudie, which ran at the Museum until February this year.

Entrance to the exhibition is included in the Museum admission.


Issued on behalf of the Scottish Maritime Museum by 

Joanna Harrison, Mobile: 07884 187404.



Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine and Dumbarton

  • Established in 1983, the Scottish Maritime Museum is recognised as the principal resource for material relating to Scottish Maritime history, in particular shipbuilding and marine engineering.  
  • The Scottish Maritime Museum is based on the Harbourside in Irvine, North Ayrshire, and Dumbarton.
  • The buildings and sites which the Scottish Maritime Museum occupies are part of the collection themselves: The Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine is housed within the Linthouse, the A listed former Engine Shop of Alexander Stephen and Sons which was built in 1872 and salvaged and relocated from their derelict Linthouse shipyard in Govan during 1991.
  • The Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton is located on the site of the former innovative William Denny Shipyard and features the world’s first commercial ship model experiment tank, the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank.

SMMart: Enriching the Imagery of Scotland's Maritime Heritage

  • The SMMart programme is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through Collecting Cultures
  • The SMMart enables the Scottish Maritime Museum to discover, acquire and present artworks, which help bring the Museum’s amazing maritime collection to life. Equally, it is enabling the Museum to create a visual art collection, which is significant in its own right and can attract visitors from across Scotland.
  • The Museum is collecting art over ten years in age across a wide range of mediums including oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, sketches, photography, posters, sculpture, textiles, historical travel posters and mixed media and installation work. The focus is on original work and, in the case of historical travel posters, rare designs with limited print runs.
  • Subjects include Scottish shipbuilding and engineering scenes, coastal scenes and works connected to the River Clyde, maritime workers and people involved with the sea, early shipping and depictions of Scottish built vessels before photography was standard.
  • The Museum is also keen to attract potential donors gifting or loaning artworks appropriate to a national collection.
  • The Museum, which is working closely with other UK museums, which collect maritime art, will host an exhibition of all acquired and donated artworks at the end of three year project.

Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures Programme

  • The Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures Programme enables museums, libraries and archives to strengthen and enliven their core collections through strategic purchase.
  • Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

Art Fund

  • Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 123,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by the V&A, London, in 2016) and a range of digital platforms.
  • Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at
  • For further information please contact Madeline Adeane, Press Relations Manager, [email protected] / 0207 225 4804

National Fund for Acquisitions

  • The National Fund for Acquisitions, administered with Scottish Government funding by National Museums Scotland, contributes towards the acquisition of objects for the collections of museums, galleries, libraries and archives throughout Scotland. During financial year 2016/17, the NFA made 64 payments totalling £131,525 to 31 organisations, supporting acquisitions with a total purchase value of nearly £373,000.
  • Find out more about the work of the National Fund for Acquisitions on our webpage:
  • National Fund for Acquisitions