The National Gallery

    

Founded in 1824 and home to over 2 300 paintings, the National Gallery is a globally-acclaimed tourist attraction and national treasure, situated in London. The paintings that are exhibited throughout this must-see are from all over Western Europe, and date back from the 1200’s to the 1800’s, providing a broad perspective of art and, through such art, culture and heritage. The National Gallery is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and is recognised as an exempt charity. Because 1) entry to the gallery is free, 2) it is open almost all year round, and 3) its collection belongs officially to the public, it plays an integral role in appealing to young and old, regardless of nationality, financial means or status.

The establishment of the National Gallery was in response to a European trend of collecting royal art collections and instituting major galleries around these collections (such as the Medici in Florence). However, England’s version began when, in 1777, the English government was offered the opportunity to buy Sir Robert Walpole’s private collection of art. It was not snatched up and it eventually went to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. However, this incident, and failed attempts that followed, reinforced the need for such a national gallery. Finally, in 1823, the government bought the Angerstein’s collection for £57 000.The gallery’s official opening at Pall Mall was on 10 May 1824.

Image of The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square, London.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square, London.

The Angerstein’s collection was soon complemented by the Beaumont's collection and the Reverend William Holwell Carr's 34 paintings. As the collection increased, it became increasingly clear that the venue for the gallery was far too small. In 1832, the construction of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square began. This was the ideal location because it was accessible to all social and financial classes in and around London.

At the beginning of the 19th century, there was a massive agricultural crisis in England. This left many aristocrats in dire need of money, forcing them to sell their valuable paintings. But the wealthy American classes meant that the paintings were too expensive for the English, which incited the establishment of the National Art Collections Fund. This provision prevented all artworks from automatically going to the United States of America, preserving these valuable pieces for their homeland.

Since its initial establishment, the National Gallery has been extended and modernised somewhat. The Sainsbury Wing is one of the most significant additions to the gallery. Built in 1991, this wing is the home of an impressive collection of Renaissance paintings.


Some of the major highlights of the National Gallery collection include:

• The Battle of San Romano - Paolo Uccello
• The Baptism of Christ - Piero della Francesca
• Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan - Giovanni Bellini
• Venus and Mars - Sandro Botticelli
• The Virgin of the Rocks - Leonardo da Vinci
• The Burlington House Cartoon - Leonardo da Vinci
• The Entombment – Michelangelo
• The Manchester Madonna - Michelangelo
• Portrait of Pope Julius II – Raphael
• The Madonna of the Pinks – Raphael
• The Mond Crucifixion - Raphael
• The Rokeby Venus - Diego Velázquez
• Belshazzar's Feast - Rembrandt
• Marriage à-la-mode - William Hogarth
• Mr and Mrs Andrews - Thomas Gainsborough
• Les Grandes Baigneuses - Paul Cézanne
• The Water-Lily Pond - Claude Monet
• The Thames Below Westminster - Claude Monet
• Sunflowers - Vincent van Gogh
• Van Gogh's Chair - Vincent van Gogh
• A Wheatfield with Cypresses - Vincent van Gogh

For more information, please view: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/