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Jan Patience: Collecting Matilda… A passion celebrated

© Ian GeorgesonMatilda Hall beside Anne, a woodcut and linocut by the late Willie Rodger
Matilda Hall beside Anne, a woodcut and linocut by the late Willie Rodger

Matilda Hall is one of life’s do-ers. As a young woman, she was the first full-time employee of Stirling University.

Matilda Mitchell, as she was then, arrived in Stirling in 1965 to work for the university’s first principal, Professor Tom Cottrell, as his secretary. They were based in two cottages in the grounds of what became the university campus in 1967.

Matilda recalls her boss saying to her: “Can you please furnish the cottages? And don’t forget pictures!”

Taking him at his word, Matilda called the Scottish Arts Council, and asked if she could come to their HQ in Edinburgh and “borrow” artworks.

The first work she chose was a print by the Scottish painter, Robert Henderson Blyth.

© Ian Georgeson
Matilda Hall (Pic: Ian Georgeson)

Matilda worked for the university until 1974 in various roles, using her artistic eye, persuasive charm and organisational flair to bring cutting edge contemporary art to Scotland’s first new university for more than 400 years. The university’s art collection was born and Matilda had a guiding hand in the way it developed.

Last week, to launch the 50th anniversary celebrations of the University’s Macrobert Arts Centre, Matilda was back on campus to open A Passion For Art: Matilda Hall, Collector And Curator.

This fantastic free exhibition features more than 20 works by 20th Century greats such as Joan Eardley, Eduardo Paolozzi and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.

One of my favourites is a woodcut/linocut by the late Willie Rodger of his wife, Anne.

The show, a delight from start to finish, has been curated by Matilda from three collections; the Art in Healthcare Collection, a charity she set up in 1991, the University of Stirling Collection and her own personal collection, she collated with her late husband Douglas Hall.

A Passion For Art: Matilda Hall, Collector And Curator runs until May 28


Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, which has been running on BBC4 since 2016, is one of my favourite “curl-up and enjoy” TV treats.

The devastating news (to me, at any rate) is that it’s not been recommissioned for another series.

The team went out on a high with its bid to discover if a beautiful painting of 18th Century beauty Elizabeth Linley in Glasgow Museums’ collection was painted by celebrated society portrait painter, Joshua Reynolds. Available to view now on BBC iPlayer.