In 1944 ship owner, Sir William Burrell donated to Glasgow his collection of paintings, Japanese and Chinese ceramics, tapestries, sculpture, stained glass and many other artefacts, totalling some 6000 items. By the time of his death in 1958 the donation had grown to over 8000 items, probably one of the greatest collections ever amassed by an individual. The collection is housed in a dedicated building in Pollok Park and has a world-wide reputation for its range and quality.

Earlier that year, on the 19th March, another ship owner, William McInnes, died at his home in Mariscat Road, Glasgow. In his will he bequeathed his collection, some 700 items including over 70 paintings, to Glasgow. Compared to Burrell, McInnes is much less well known to the Glasgow public, however his French paintings, which include works by Degas, Renoir, and Matisse are amongst the finest in any European Municipal collection.

Undoubtedly McInnes is, correctly, overshadowed by Burrell. The following however is an attempt to appropriately redress the balance between the two men. Whilst there can be no doubt that Burrell’s gift is and will remain unsurpassed, McInnes’s significant contribution to Glasgow’s cultural life deserves broader acknowledgement than it has received so far.

William McInnes’s paternal family originated in Crieff, Perthshire. His grandparents William and Janet married in 1825 [1] and had eleven children, not all of whom survived childhood. William’s father John was the oldest child, born in Crieff at the end of December 1825.[2] Seven of the children were born in Crieff or Comrie, the others in Glasgow after the family moved there sometime between 1841 and 1851.[3] Grandfather William, John and his brother Alexander were all working on the railways by 1851, William as a labourer, John as an engine man and Alexander as a fireman.

Ten years later the family home was at 6 Salisbury Street in the Gorbals where John and his siblings lived with their parents. The three men continued to work on the railways, William now being a timekeeper. John’s three sisters, Jessie, Jeanie and Mary were milliners.[4]

In 1867 John McInnes married Margaret McFadyen from Neilston on 28th June. At the time of his marriage he was working as a railway engine driver.[5] They lived at 6 Cavendish Street where their four children were born: son William on 13th September 1868[6], to be followed by Finlay (1870), Thomas (1872) and Ann (1876).[7]

Tragically, at the early age of 33, Margaret, died of plithisis (tuberculosis) in 1879 [8] which resulted in John  and the four children, who were aged between 3 and 11 years, moving to 6 Salisbury Street to live with his brother Andrew and sisters Jessie and Mary; where Jessie acted as housekeeper and surrogate mother to the children.[9] This manifestation of strong family ties working to bring some good out of a bad and difficult situation I’m sure had a lasting impression on William. His friendships, particularly with the artist George Leslie Hunter and his support of family members in later life, provide evidence of that.

It’s not clear where William received his schooling although one source has suggested that he attended Hutcheson Grammar at the same time as the author John Buchan.[10] Having talked to the administration staff at the school this has not been confirmed.

In 1882 John’s sister Mary married Gavin Shearer in Glasgow.[11] Gavin aged 44 was an Insurance Broker working for the Glasgow Salvage Company Ltd.[12] whose business was marine salvage. The marriage was childless and short lived as he died in 1887 from tuberculosis. At the time of his death he was secretary of the salvage company.[13]

William was aged 19 at this time and probably had been in employment for some time. Was Gavin Shearer his entrée to the world of insurance when he was old enough? Considering how the family stuck together and supported each other it’s not unreasonable to think that his uncle helped him to get work, especially in an industry where he would have some influence. This is clearly conjecture as it’s not known what employment, if any, he was in at the time of his uncle’s death, however by 1891 he was working as a marine insurance clerk for P.H.Dixon and Harrison.[14]

Four years later the company merged with Allan C. Gow to form Gow, Harrison and Company. Allan Carswell Gow had established his shipping company in the early 1850s. In 1853 he was joined in the business by his brother Leonard who on Allan’s death in 1859 became head of the firm. His younger son, also Leonard, in due course joined the business which by this time had offices in London as well as Glasgow.[15] Senior partners in the new company which was located at 45 Renfield Street were the young Leonard Gow and John Robinson Harrison; McInnes continued to be employed as a marine insurance clerk.[16]  In 1899 the Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association was formed, which Gow, Harrison and McInnes joined in its inaugural year. Another well-known Glasgow shipping name also joined later that year, George Burrell of William Burrell and Son, brother to the future Sir William Burrell.[17] McInnes possibly became a partner in the business in 1907, the first year he appeared in the Glasgow Post Office Directory, however it’s more likely to have been 1922 when John Harrison retired from the business and his son Ion joined it. In 1929 William became godfather to Ion’s son Iain Vittorio Robinson Harrison.[18]

Between 1899 and 1907 William’s brothers and sister married. Thomas married Jessie McEwan in 1899 at the Grand Hotel, Glasgow, there were no children of the marriage; Finlay married Agnes Hamilton at 95 Renfield Street on 15th February 1907, they had one son who was born on 8th December of the same year; Ann married William Sinclair on 27th February 1907 at 22 Princes Street, which was where the McInnes family then stayed.[19] Shortly afterwards Ann and William emigrated to the United States and settled in Maine where their three sons William (1908), John (1912) and Andrew (1916) were born.[20]

William McInnes never married although according to one source he was close to it. Lord McFarlane of Bearsden relates the story that his wife’s aunt and McInnes planned to marry but her father forbade it because he ‘didn’t have enough siller’.[21]

McInnes moved to 4 Mariscat Road, Pollokshields in 1909 and lived there for the rest of his life with his elderly father and his uncle Andrew and aunt Mary.

It’s not clear when he started his collection, however it’s likely that his collecting activity would be prompted, certainly influenced by his relationship with Gow who became a renowned collector in his own right, particularly of paintings and Chinese porcelain. You can also envisage that Gow was the means by which McInnes met Alexander Reid and hence Leslie Hunter. What is known is that he bought his first painting, ‘Autumn’ by George Henry from Alexander Reid in 1910.[22] His final purchase was ‘The Star Ridge with the King’s Peak’ (near Gardanne) by Cezanne, in 1942, from Reid and Lefevre, London.[23] This painting eventually came into his sister-in-law Jessie’s (widow of brother Thomas) possession.[24] In between those purchases he bought a number of significant paintings ranging from French Impressionists to Scottish Colourists. He bought works by Degas, Renoir, Picasso, and Matisse[25] and was the first Scottish collector to buy a van Gogh, (The Blute Fin Windmill, Montmatre) bought in 1921 for £550.[26]

Fig. 1 van Gogh, Vincent; The Blute-Fin Windmill, Montmartre© CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (http://www.artuk.org)

He also purchased, glassware, ceramics and silver which in due course, along with his paintings, formed the basis of his eventual bequest to Glasgow.[27]

In a Kelvingrove museum publication of 1987 the then Fine Art keeper Ann Donald commented as follows: ‘The most important individual 20th Century benefactor to date has been William McInnes (1868-1944), a Glasgow ship owner who left to his native city his entire collection of over 70 paintings as well as prints, drawings, silver, ceramics and glass. The bequest included 33 French works (many of them bought from Alexander Reid) by key artists such as Monet, Degas, Renoir, van Gogh, Cezanne and Picasso, whilst the British pictures were mostly by the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, of whom he was a regular patron. This donation firmly established the international importance of Glasgow’s French collection.’[28]

McInnes is described by those who knew him as a modest, unassuming individual who did not seek attention or the limelight.[29] and may have found these comments not particularly welcome, despite them being highly complimentary. McInnes valued his friendships and his family, which is evident from the support he gave, and his ability to listen to the advice he was given. He was able to take the artistic guidance given him by the likes of Leslie Hunter, Tom Honeyman and others, and act on it if he thought it appropriate to do so, which wasn’t always. He bought paintings it’s said not only for his own pleasure but for that of his friends.[30] He gave unstinting support to family and friends, particularly Leslie Hunter and his closest family members.

As stated earlier, William lived with his father, and aunt and uncle, for a number of years at Mariscot Road, incidentally where most of his paintings were housed. His father died in 1911, aged 85, cause of death being senile decay and pneumonia. His uncle Andrew, aged 81, died in April 1930 from senility and glycosuria (untreated diabetes); his aunt Mary, aged 83, also died in 1930 (August) from glycosuria.  Both died at home.[31]

These are very distressing and difficult conditions, not only for the sufferers, but for those who have to care for them. When it is considered that he had a senior position in a significant shipping business, that he was a member and leader of a number of industry organisations and also of the Ship Owners Benevolent Association, in addition to whatever he had to do at home, it’s clear that William had a strong sense of service and duty, perhaps inculcated by his early family experiences. It seems reasonable to presume he found this to be more intrinsically rewarding than anything else. When his support of Leslie Hunter is taken into account, then that presumption gains credence.

The artist must have seemed to McInnes to be a vulnerable, possibly unstable individual, whose life style could be fraught and chaotic at times. This must have resonated with McInnes’s home life in that here was another person who needed care and support. This may be more fanciful than factual, however there does seem to be this pattern to how William lived his life.

Hunter and McInnes met before 1914 and are known to have been in Paris pre WW One along with John Tattersall, the trip expenses, according to Hunter, being paid for by his two friends.[32] There are examples of how Hunter was helped and encouraged by McInnes and others in Tom Honeyman’s biography of him.[33] The most tangible evidence of McInnes’s support is, I suppose, the fact that his collection contains 23 paintings by Hunter.[34] There was one occasion apparently when McInnes commissioned a portrait of himself because the artist needed the money.[35] The friendship between the two men was not a one-way street however. McInnes was in many respects helped and guided by Hunter in his artistic education; however the better part of the bargain must have what McInnes gave to Hunter in encouragement, friendship, and in helping to sustain his motivation and confidence. McInnes has been described as Hunter’s most important patron; that is true in a way that goes well beyond the expected understanding of the phrase.

After Hunter’s death in 1931 [36] McInnes continued to promote him by persuading Tom Honeyman to write his biography of the artist[37] and along with Honeyman and William McNair, by organizing a memorial exhibition of his work, which was held in Reid and Lefevre’s gallery in West George Street during February 1932. Mrs Jessie McFarlane, the painter’s sister, asked the group to decide which paintings to keep and which to destroy.[38]

McInnes and Honeyman met around the time Honeyman gave up medicine and moved into art dealership, probably through Leslie Hunter. It developed into a well bonded relationship, not only when Hunter was a common link between them but also after his death. Probably Honeyman is the only person to have recorded in any detail McInnes’s personality and interests which he did in his autobiography ‘Art and Audacity’. He is described as having a keen interest in classical music in which he indulged through his gramophone records and pianola, and his attendance at the Scottish National Orchestra’s Saturday evening concerts. He is said to have played the church organ in his younger days. Art and learning about paintings and artists was also a primary interest. It’s perhaps a moot point as to which he preferred. He also enjoyed travelling to the continent, during which time visits to the various museums and galleries would further develop his knowledge of art, art styles and artists, particularly when in the company of Hunter. Honeyman describes visits to the McInnes home as always stimulating and interesting.[39]

Fig.2 Matisse, Henri; Woman in Oriental Dress.© CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (http://www.artuk.org)

In many respects because of his interest in painting in particular, McInnes was fertile ground for Honeyman in his quest to interest industrialists of the day in fine art and bring them to the idea of donating to municipal collections. I don’t believe this was a ‘corruption’ of their friendship but a celebration of its strength and depth. Between 1921 and 1943 he donated works by Hunter, Peploe and Fergusson and in 1940 William presented Matisse’s ‘Woman in Oriental Dress’ to Kelvingrove to commemorate Honeyman’s appointment as Museum Director.[40]

In 1931 McInnes was nominated for the vice-presidency of the Ship Owners Benevolent Association and was duly elected. The rules of the Association meant that he would become president in 1932.  However at the last board meeting of the year it was agreed that ‘having regard to the very serious time through which the country was passing the directors felt that the president and vice president should carry on for another year, especially as the honour to Mr McInnes was only deferred.’ In 1933 McInnes duly became president.[41]

It’s clear from the minutes of the meetings held during his tenure that he played a full and influential part in the decision making process of the Association.[42] On his retiral from the post he donated £100 to the association funds, equivalent to £5000 in today’s money.[43]

William McInnes died at home on 19th March 1944 from a heart attack.[44] He was senior partner in Gow, Harrison and Co. at the time of his death, taking over from Leonard Gow on his death in 1936. In his will he left in excess of 700 items, including 70 paintings, to Glasgow. His bequest was made free of any legacy duty or any other expenses, his only stipulation was that his paintings would go on show at Kelvingrove. The same day his bequest came before a special meeting of Glasgow Corporation’s committee on Art Galleries and Museums it was accepted with ‘high appreciation’ following a report on the collection by Tom Honeyman, the Director of Art Galleries.[45]

His obituary in the Glasgow Herald stated: ‘McInnes was a man of cultured taste, he was keenly interested in music and art. He had brought together in his home a collection of pictures which was notable for its quality and catholicity.’ It adds finally “He was an intimate friend and patron of the late Leslie Hunter with whom he made several visits to the continent.’[46]

In a sense William’s contribution didn’t stop there. In 1951 his sister-in-law Jessie donated Cezanne’s ‘The Star Ridge with the Kings Peak’ to Kelvingrove.[47] In 1985 a portrait of McInnes by Leslie Hunter was sold to Kelvingrove by his sister Ann’s son Andrew McInnes Sinclair of Massachusetts, USA. The painting was handed over in person by Andrew and his cousin John McInnes, the son of William’s brother Finlay, on 9th July.[48] The portrait had been commissioned by William for his sister to take back to America following a visit to Scotland in 1930[49]

Fig.3 Cezanne, Paul; The Star Ridge with the King’s Peak.© CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (http://www.artuk.org)
Fig.4 Hunter, George Leslie; William McInnes (1868-1944).© CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (http://www.artuk.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References.

[1] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Crieff, Perthshire, 342/00. 1 May 1825. McINNES, William and McDONALD, Janet. GROS Data 342/00 0020 0113. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[2] Baptisms (OPR) Scotland. Crieff, Perthshire, 342/00. 1 January 1826 McINNES, John. GROS Data 342/00 0020 0019. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[3] Census. 1851. Scotland. Gorbals, Glasgow City, 644/02. GROS Data 644/02 126/00 012.

Census. 1861. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. GROS Data 644/09 027/00 001.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[4] Census. 1861. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. GROS Data 644/09 027/00 001.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[5] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. 28 June 1867 McINNES, John and McFADYEN, Margaret. GROS Data 644/09 257. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[6] Births. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. 13 September 1868, McINNES, William. GROS Data 644/09 1456.  http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[7] Births. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. 1 May 1870 McINNES, Finlay. GROS Data 644/09 0689. Births. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. 2 June 1872 McINNES, Thomas GROS Data 644/09 0989.

Births. Scotland. Gorbals, Lanarkshire, 644/12. 22 October 1876, McINNES, Ann GROS Data 644/12 1367.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[8] Deaths. Scotland. Gorbals, Glasgow City 6444/12. 12 June 1879. McINNES, Margaret. GROS Data 644/12 0428. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[9] Census. 1881. Scotland. Gorbals, Glasgow City, 644/12. GROS Data 644/12 025/00 002.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[10] The Art Review, Vol 1, no.1, 1946 Tom Honeyman.

[11] Marriages. Scotland. Blythswood, Glasgow, 644/07. 14 September 1882. SHEARER, Gavin and McINNES, Mary. GROS Data 644/07 0321. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[12] The Post Office. 1881-1882 Glasgow Post Office Directory Glasgow: William McKenzie p.475.

[13] Deaths. Scotland. Kelvin, Glasgow, 644/09. 20 February 1887. SHEARER, Gavin. GROS Data 644/09 0178.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[14] ibid

[15] The Merchant Navy Association: The Red Duster: The Glen Line http://www.red-duster.co.uk/GLEN.htm. accessed June 2011, AND

George Eyre-Todd (1909) Who’s Who in Glasgow in 1909 – Leonard Gray Glasgow: Gowans and Gray Ltd.

[16] Census. Scotland. 1901. Tradeston, Glasgow City. GROS Data 644/13 035/00 021 http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[17] Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association (1899) Minutes of meeting 5th May 1899 and 1899 year end Director’s report dated January 1900, page 8.

[18] Iain Vittorio Robinson Harrison – June 2011

[19] Marriages. Scotland. Kelvin, Glasgow City, 644/09. 5 July 1899. McINNES, Thomas and McEWAN, Jessie GROS Data 644/09 0344.

Marriages. Scotland. Blythswood, City of Glasgow, 644/10. 15 February 1907. McINNES, Finlay and HAMILTON, Agnes GROS Data 644/10 0144.

Marriages. Scotland. Pollokshields, 644/18. 27 February 1907. SINCLAIR, William and McINNES, Ann GROS Data 644/18 0049.  http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011

[20] Ancestry.com. UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 Class: BT26; Piece: 755; Item: 25. Passenger lists for SS California 1924 show Ann, husband and three sons, the sons’ birth place being stated as Maine USA. They arrived in Scotland in July and returned to America in September. http://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=bt26&rank=1&new=1&MSAV=1&msT=1&gss=angs-d&gsfn=william+&gsln=sinclair&msbdy=1876&msedy=1908&cpxt=1&uidh=hd2&msbdp=2&_83004003-n_xcl=f&cp=11&pcat=40&fh=9&h=18164070&recoff=&ml_rpos=10

[21] Lord McFarlane of Bearsden –June 2011

[22]  Frances Fowle (2010) Van Gogh’s Twin: The Scottish Art Dealer Alexander Reid. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland. p. 63.

[23] VADS (2008) National Inventory of Continental European Paintings  http://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=87972&sos=2 accessed October 2011.

[24] Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum donor attribution.

[25] Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum (1987) The Building and the Collections. Glasgow: Wm. Collins. p. 101

[26] Fowle, op.cit. p. 134.

[27] Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) – Inventory list of the McInnes Bequest.

[28] Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum (1987) The Building and the Collections. Glasgow: Wm. Collins. p. 101

[29] T.J. Honeyman (1971) Art and Audacity London: Collins p.124.

[30] Honeyman, op.cit. p. 127.

[31] Deaths. Scotland. Cathcart, Glasgow City, 560/00. 8 September 1911. McINNES, John GROS Data 560/00 0483.

Deaths. Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow City, 644/18. 19 April 1930 McINNES, Andrew GROS Data 644/18 0222.

Deaths. Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow City, 644/18. 1 August 1930. SHEARER, Mary GROS Data 644/18 0355.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[32] Fowle, op.cit. p. 116.

[33] Honeyman, op.cit. pp various.

[34]Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) – Inventory list of the McInnes Bequest.

[35] McTears auction 25th April 2006 – auction house notes on lots 455, 455a: William McInnes at his piano by Leslie Hunter, plus copy of Introducing Leslie Hunter.

[36] Deaths. Scotland. Hillhead, Glasgow City, 644/12. 1931. HUNTER, George Leslie GROS Data 644/12 1155.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[37] Honeyman, op.cit. p. 126.

[38] Honeyman, op.cit. p. 208.

[39] Honeyman, op.cit. p. 124. .

[40] Honeyman, op.cit.p. 126.

[41] Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association (1931). Minutes of meeting 14th December 1931

[42] Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association (1931/1934). Minutes of meetings January 1931 to January 1934.

[43] Andrew Nicholson (2011) Secy. Of Scottish Shipping Benevolent Association – email May 2011

[44] Deaths. Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow City, 644/18. 19 March 1944. McINNES, William GROS Data 644/18 0218.

http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.

[45] Glasgow Corporation Minutes April 1944 to November 1944. Mitchell Library reference: C1/3/110

[46] Obituary (1944) Glasgow Herald 20 March 1944. McINNES, William. p. 4 http://www.glasgowherald.co.uk; accessed June 2011.

[47] Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum donor attribution.

[48] T.J. Honeyman (1937) Introducing Leslie Hunter London: Faber and Faber Ltd. pp. 149,150 and 167.

[49] Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) – Object folder on William McInnes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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