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Gabrielle Keiller



The surrealists were passionate and their collectors were no less so. The former Scottish golfer Gabrielle Keiller devoted herself to their movement following a visit to the Venice home of Peggy Guggenheim in 1960. This moment proved to be a pivotal moment in her life. For her, Art was a passion, rather than an investment. She made a point of only buying items that she had space to hang in her cottage. Recognizing the fundamental significance of Surrealism’s literary aspect, Keiller also worked assiduously to create a magnificent library of archives, full of rare books. That is why her so rich collection was considered among the most significant holding of surrealist art in the world. MyStudiolo retraces the life of this great perfectionist with instinctive feel for artworks in:

6 key dates 4 artworks 3 anecdotes 1 quote

1930's At this time, her life was dedicated to golf. She inherited from her paternal grandmother a part-share in a Texas ranch. The sale of this asset after the Second World War provided her with funds for collecting art. At first her interests were in Old Master paintings, fine antique furniture, silver and porcelain. She even owned a Cézanne.

1855 After her husband died in 1955 Gabrielle Keiller gave up golf and worked as a part-time volunteer in the Tate and the British Museum. As an archaeological photographer, she helped Rupert Bruce - Mitford with his massive study of the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

1860 Her encounter in Venice with the art lover Peggy Guggenheim impressed her so much that she took the decision to focus on works of Dadaism and Surrealism. Also the Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi who exhibited his works inspired by Surrealism at the British pavilion at the Biennale of Venice encouraged Gabrielle in her intention to realign her collection.

1963 She bought her first Paolozzi and soon became his most important patron. She collected the principal exponents of the movements: paintings and collages by Paul Delvaux, Max Ernst, Magritte, Man Ray, Mir, Schwitters and Tanguy among others, and sculpture by Duchamp and Giacometti. She also acquired an early Francis Bacon.

1988 After a serious fire in her cottage two years before, several artworks were damaged and this upheaval affected her health. The public, however, benefited from the disaster in the form of "The Magic Mirror", an exhibition of some 180 Dada and Surrealist works (including books and other items) at the Royal Scottish Academy and a touring exhibition of 18 Paolozzi sculptures.

1995 On her death, she bequeathed a collection of 136 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, as well as manuscripts and books, to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. As a member of the acquisition committee of this museum, she gave brilliant advice and was responsible for some of the most important acquisitions.


René Magritte, Miroir Magique, 1929

Paul Delvaux, Rue des Tramways, 1938

Eileen Agar, Fish Circus, 1939

Salvador Dalí, Le Signal de l'Angoisse, 1936



  • Andy Warhol was never afraid to solicit commissions for portraits and would often suggest that he could create a portrait of a pet, if someone was unwilling to sit for their own portrait. Created thanks to Polaroids, Maurice - who was the beloved dachshund of Gabrielle Keiller - was the first painting by Warhol to enter the Scottish National Gallery's collection.

  • Gabrielle Keiller was championship-winning golfer. She won the Ladies' Open Championships in Luxembourg, Switzerland and Monaco, retaining the Monaco title in 1949. She was also a member of the England and Surrey teams.

  • She was also a keen gardener. By displaying sculpture in her cottage's garden, she was able to achieve a wonderful marriage between her own art form (her impressive garden) and that of the sculptors, for example a Paolozzi frog by a pond with water lilies. Particularly memorable was a concentric circle of slate set in a clearing in a copse, which she commissioned from Richard Long.


"She had this incredible reasoning, a certain kind of imperial eccentricity. She found it very easy to like Surrealism as being quirky, naughty, and for her marvelous."

Said her friend and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi

To go further :

An introduction to Surrealism and its collectors

Video Surrealism collector : Gabrielle Keiller with Richard Calvocoressi, curator and former director at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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