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History of the Collection

The Jade Necklace: Portrait of
Rosalind Birnie Philip

The University of Glasgow houses the world's largest public display of Whistler's art, and a major resource for the study of Whistler's life and times. These holdings are centred on the artist's Estate.

Whistler bequeathed his Estate to his ward, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873 – 1958), a younger sister of his late wife, Beatrix. Miss Philip subsequently gifted and bequeathed the art collection, and Whistler's personal collections of decorative art and memorabilia, to the University of Glasgow in 1935 and 1958 respectively.

Glasgow was chosen for several reasons, including Whistler's Scottish ancestry; the support in his lifetime of the painters the "Glasgow Boys" which led to the purchase by the city in 1891 of Whistler's portrait of Thomas Carlyle; and, in 1903, shortly before his death, the decision by the University of Glasgow to award Whistler the honorary degree of Doctor of Law.

In addition, in 1954 Miss Philip presented the University with an important archive of over 4,000 letters as well as catalogues, press cuttings, photographs, books and memorabilia. This archive is housed in the Special Collections Department of the University Library. Important additions have since been made to both holdings.