Castlemilk Lads joins Da Vinci in masterpieces book

The Castlemilk Lads, pictured, joins masterpieces such as Allan Ramsay's portrait of David Hume, above, and Titian's Diana and Actaeon
The Castlemilk Lads, pictured, joins masterpieces such as Allan Ramsay's portrait of David Hume, above, and Titian's Diana and Actaeon
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IT is an iconic image of 1960s Glasgow, capturing a group of youngsters jostling and peering into the camera in front of a new housing scheme.

Now the picture of The Castlemilk Lads, as they were named by Italian-born photographer Oscar Marzaroli, has been named one of Scotland’s greatest works of art.

His photograph is featured in a new book charting the highlights of Scotland’s national art collection, alongside work by celebrated painters like Sir Henry Raeburn, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Allan Ramsay and Sir David Wilkie.

The 1963 picture of the youngsters – who remained anonymous for almost half a century until they were reunited in the estate – also appears alongside portraits of key figures from Scottish history like Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, Flora MacDonald, David Hume and Sir Walter Scott in the book.

It has been compiled by Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, from more than 100,000 works on display in its Edinburgh attractions or in its archives.

Work by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, Raphael, Botticelli and Warhol all feature in his book, entitled 100 Masterpieces, which he describes as a “calling card” for a collection he says is as good as anything in the world.

It features some of its most popular works including Sir Henry Raeburn’s classic 18th-century painting of The Skating Minister, two 15th-century Titians saved for the nation in recent years, and Antonio Canova’s celebrated 19th-century sculpture of The Three Graces.

Marzaroli, whose work, including The Castlemilk Lads, was used on the cover of Deacon Blue’s records, moved to Scotland with his family at the age of two and spent most of his life in Glasgow, documenting the city.

Writing in the book, Sir John said: “The faces of these boys who press forward into the camera lens already betray the signs of a tough upbringing, but the mood seems more inquisitive than threatening.”

Along with Marzaroli, other photographers featured include American Robert Mapple-thorpe, with a naked portrait of rock singer Patti Smith, the famous Edinburgh pioneers Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill, with a grainy 1845 image of Princes Street, and Alfred George Buchanan’s 1920 aerial view of the city.

The book includes an 1890 photograph by Alexander Hutchison of islanders on St Kilda some 40 years before its evacuation, and Joan Eardley’s Street Kids painting, drawn from her work in Glasgow after the Second World War.

Works chosen from the modern art collection include a 1957 sculpture by Leith-born pop art pioneer Eduardo Paolozzi, paintings by John Bellany and Alan Davie, both of whom have passed away in the last two years, and Glasgow artist Douglas Gordon’s film of French footballer Zinedine Zidane.

Sir John said: “We’ve published a lot of books on parts of the collection and various aspects of it, but this was a chance to produce something spanning the entire range of it, from the 14th century to the present day.

“For quite a while I’ve wanted to do something as a calling card for the National Galleries of Scotland as a whole. It’s really a celebration of the breadth and quality of Scotland’s national art collection. Doing the book has brought home how the collection ranks amongst the best in the world, which we’re perhaps a little bit tentative about saying.

“Maybe we take it for granted a bit because we have been around since the 19th century. But our annual attendance figure, which is just shy of two million, put us in the top 30th for museum and gallery collections anywhere in the world.”