In June, Kirkcaldy Galleries opened its doors to two colourful and exciting new exhibitions – ‘Jack Vettriano: the Early Years’ and ‘Brushstrokes’. Featuring specially selected gems and highlights from our own permanent fine art collection, ‘Brushstrokes’ was designed to complement the Vettriano exhibition, to show off our fantastic collection, and to trial new display layouts and engagement methods.

Right here on your doorstep in Fife we have around 2,000 oil paintings, watercolours, prints and drawings – including works by the celebrated Glasgow Boys and the largest collection of paintings by Scottish Colourist S J Peploe outwith National Galleries Scotland! There are 53 works on display in Brushstrokes, divided between two rooms. 

The layout of the two rooms is deliberately different – to trial how visitors react to these displays. Gallery Two of ‘Brushstrokes’ is an homage to the Scottish Colourists, and landscape artist William McTaggart. Here, you can see a selection of beautiful still-lives, elegant portraits and inspiring landscapes produced by Samuel Peploe, Francis Cadell, George Leslie Hunter and John Duncan Fergusson.

Some of the Scottish Colourists’ paintings on display at Brushstrokes exhibition

Gallery One, however, displays a fantastically eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary art. There are works by Elizabeth Blackadder, Anne Redpath, John Bellany, Henri Fantin-Latour, Alison Watt, Walter Sickert, Frances Walker, Joan Eardley and John William Waterhouse, to name but a few. 

Eclectic mix in Gallery 1. Depicted here are 20th century works by John Houston and Marian Leven, 21st century print by Kate Downie and 19th century painting by John William Waterhouse.

In addition to trialling different layouts, we are also trialling new interpretation methods. Instead of focussing on the factual, the labels accompanying the artworks are narrative and draw attention to little details within the paintings or interesting anecdotes about the artist. Many of the works on display have been chosen by members of staff and each of these comes with an extra layer of interpretation – a ‘staff picks’ label, explaining why they’ve selected that particular painting and what it means to them.   

An example of one of the ‘staff pick’ labels in the galleries. Venue Manager Helen’s favourite painting – The Old Man and the Sea by John Bellany.

We are also trying out some new ways for our visitors to interact with the artworks – QR codes that link to audio recordings with some of the local artists talking about their painting, or codes that link to more information about some of the details within the painting.

A QR code, leading to the interview with artist James Marshall Dickson is displayed next to his painting, Monument to the Michael.

To make the exhibition enjoyable for all ages, we have lots of children’s activities on offer in the galleries – games, a free activity pack, as well as our Art Cart, loaded with arty storybooks and colouring sheets. 

Kids’ activities in the gallery.

To help us make some decisions about what we put in our galleries from 2023 onwards and how we interpret it for our visitors, we have built into ‘Brushstrokes’ lots of ways to gather visitor feedback, from postcards you can fill in and leave in the gallery, to Curators being around on selected dates just to chat with visitors and find out what they think about the exhibitions and what they’d like to see in future.  

‘Brushstrokes’ is free so why not come along and enjoy some amazing art and help us make some informed decisions about the re-hang of the art galleries from 2023! We would love to see you and it would be enormously helpful to hear your thoughts! 


This blog was written by Lesley Lettice, Exhibitions Curator and Kirke Kook, Collections Curator