THE HOUSE of Dun has become the new home of two significant collections held by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
Housed formerly at the trust’s headquarters in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, the Hutchison and Stirling collections consist of some of the finest paintings and furniture in the NTS’s ownership.
The house will be home for the next five years to more than 30 paintings by prominent Scottish colourists, with works on display by such leading artists as Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe and William Crosbie.
The paintings will share the same space as an eclectic variety of items from the collection of renowned architect Sir James Stirling whose tastes ran from late Georgian furniture, porcelain and glass to more contemporary design such as a rare ‘60s Brionvega hi-fi unit.
One of the jewels in the collection’s crown is a unique table by Thomas Hope of Hopetoun House. With its silver inlay, it is a definite one-off and is considered to be an iconic piece.
Space has been made for the vibrant exhibition in the house’s old library, which meant that property manager John McKenna and his staff had a race against time to have the room ready for the exhibition to be arranged.
The decision was taken to move the collections after the trust sold its Charlotte Street headquarters and relocated to its new premises at Hermiston Quay. The paintings were left to the trust by Douglas Hutchison, a member of the Kirkcaldy grain milling family.
He said, however, that the effort had been worth it and that the prestige attached to both collections means that they should be a considerable draw for visitors to the area.
He said: “What’s really exciting about it is that it will have a knock-on effect to jobs and the economy. We know and understand why Angus isn’t sitting in that main tourist rote and we have to do things like this.
“This is a huge magnet which will help to draw people and that can only be good for our local hotels and eateries and we’re very excited for Angus to be delivering this.” Mr McKenna added that clearing the way for the new exhibit also gave the trust’s curators to “repatriate” items from the library and other parts of the house to their proper homes in the building.
He said: “When it was left to the NTS about 80 per cent of what was on display belonged to Dun but it wasn’t necessarily in the right places so we’ve taken the chance to rearrange what had been done earlier.
“Security has also been tightened after thefts last year but items have been re-presented to the better advantage of the visitors.”
NTS head curator Ian Gow said Douglas Hutchison was inspired to start collecting after visits to the museum in his native Kirkcaldy.
He said: “It is a very personal collection. Douglas Hutchison used to visit Kirkcaldy Museum in his lunch hours while working for the family firm after serving in World War Two.
“The very fine modern art there inspired him to start his own collection.
“When he gave the collection to us he held one painting back at the last minute, an Ann Redpath he simply couldn’t bear to part with.”
The Stirling collection is on loan to the trust from Sir James Stirling’s widow who was also looking for the right location for the furniture.
Mr Gow said: “She met Douglas Hutchison and realised his collection was the right backdrop for the Stirling collection and so the two collections came to Charlotte Square.
“They are now perfectly displayed in the House of Dun because neither wanted their collections to be seen in museum-like settings.”
The collections will be open to the public from the start of the house’s new opening season, which begins this Friday (April 1).
Reorganisation carried out by staff and curators ahead as well as the relocation of the two collections is just the tip of the iceberg and follows a winter’s worth of preparation and investment at the Adam-designed property.
Mr McKenna said: “Visitors will enjoy the benefits of some £130,000 of repair and renovation on the estate which has improved the driveway, path and bridge network.
“The biggest change is the courtyard area. We’ve worked hard through the harshest winter in decades to restore this beautiful space to its former glory.
“I’m sure that visitors will enjoy sitting out at the Café Dun in this beautiful setting this summer.
A packed programme of events is also planned from Mother’s Day this Sunday when mums will enjoy free entry to the property and Café Dun will be laying on a special spread for the day.