The Bute Collection is housed at Mount Stuart (1880–1912), the Gothic Revival Palace by Robert Rowand Anderson on the Isle of Bute. It contains, besides a truly great collection of 18th-century portraits, important Dutch and Flemish works that were collected in the 1760s and 1770s by John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute (1713–1792). Bute was tutor to King George III when he was Prince of Wales, advising him, among other things, on acquisitions for the royal collection. Soon after the coronation in 1760, Bute was given power by his former pupil, becoming Prime Minister in 1762. His main business was to negotiate the Peace of Paris, ending the Seven Years’ War. Within one year, however, Bute resigned and was forced to leave London to escape the London mob. He bought a country house at Luton, which he had remodeled by Adam, and landscaped by Capability Brown. There he settled down to become the most important British collector of Dutch paintings, assembling for the purpose a library and collection of prints and drawings (dispersed 1794-1809). At the time of his death, there were 500 works in the house. Bute had more than a penchant for Venetian art and the grand rooms on the ground floor were hung with works by Tintoretto, Veronese and Bordone, as well as some of the finest examples of the work of Francesco Zuccarelli. Masterpieces by Dutch artists in the library included a magnificent Windy Autumn Day landscape by Berchem (Mount Stuart), and Cuyp’s River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants (now in the National Gallery, London). That painting is said to have started the craze for Cuyp among British collectors when Bute acquired it in the early 1760s. The smaller Dutch paintings were accommodated on the upper floor, clustered in dense thematic hangs in the bedrooms and dressing rooms.
The exhibition of 26 pictures in Glasgow University provides a window onto the riches of Mount Stuart, which can be visited in a day-trip by train and ferry from Glasgow. They are generally smaller works, including jewel-like landscapes by Savery, De Momper/Brueghel, Jan van der Heyden, Cuyp, Berchem, and Ruisdael, as well as genre scenes by Steen, Teniers, Verelst, Metsu and Bega. Visitors to Mount Stuart will see the extraordinary collection of family portraits by Batoni, Ramsay and Reynolds as well as works by Hobbema, Steen, Willem van Herp and Pieter van Slingelandt.