James Duncan: An Enlightened Victorian
by Andrew McDonald Watson
Whilst familiar with the collections of Burrell, few people have heard of James Duncan. Yet had Duncan's collection remained intact it would be internationally recognised and significant to Scottish culture today.
The first Scottish collector to purchase an Impressionist painting, Duncan had an extraordinary eye as a collector at a time when Victorian sensibilities frowned upon many modern works. At his estate, Benmore in Argyllshire, Duncan amassed an internationally important collection, housed in his own vast gallery and available for public view, along with his other projects, a fernery and a sugar refinery.
A man of huge scientific ability who pioneered work in industry and commerce, Duncan employed his significant wealth in improving the working conditions of his workforce and the community in general. And yet this innovative man, well regarded amongst the most distinguished of his peers, all but disappeared from history as his fortune dwindled. Here, for the first time, Duncan is recognised in the context of his time as a scientist, industrial innovator, philanthropist and art collector; a Scot of great industry and energy whom history has forgotten until now.
Paperback, 80pp, 244 x 184mm, full colour illustrations throughout
Praise for James Duncan: an enlightened Victorian:
'Watson's authoritative study pays long overdue tribute to a distinguished ‘merchant prince' ... finely crafted and meticulously researched.'
Colin J. Bailey, BA PhD FSA FSAScot
'Andrew Watson's characteristically thorough research and balanced judgment brilliantly rights an historical wrong and restores Duncan to his proper place in the pantheon of great Scots.'
Robert Wenley, Head of Collections and Learning, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.