'Twas on the 5th day of October, in the year of 1883,
That the University College was opened in Dundee,
And the opening proceedings were conducted in the College Hall,
In presence of ladies and gentlemen both great and small.
...the Right Hon W E Baxter was there on behalf of his aunt,
And acknowledged her beautiful portrait without any rant,
And said that she requested him to hand it over to the College,
As an incentive to teach the ignorant masses knowledge.
from The Inauguration of the University College, Dundee
by William McGonagall, 1883
As the Poet McGonagall's immortal words imply, Miss Baxter's portrait was intended to act as an inspiration to the college staff. It has since become a tradition for each University Principal to be captured on canvas for presumably the same end.
Whether any of the University's portraits have ever succeeded in inspiring either staff or the "ignorant masses" (i.e. students) is unclear, but they surely help bring to life great characters from the University's past that might otherwise be forgotten.
Created by such distinguished artists as Alberto Morrocco, McIntosh Patrick and Sir George Reid, many of these portraits (now cared for by Museum Services) remain fine works of art in their own right, as well as teaching us a lot about the changing styles of portraiture over the past century.
As well as some of our best portraits, the exhibition also features a variety of other artworks and objects presented to this institution during its 120 year history, first as University College Dundee, then Queen's College, and now the University of Dundee.