National Gallery, London
The National Gallery in London is one of the world’s most famous and most visited museums exclusively dedicated to painting.
History and Trafalgar Square building
The museum is located in Trafalgar Square and housed in an imposing neoclassical building, designed by British architect William Wilkins, which opened to the public in 1838. The museum’s building has been enlarged in 1991 through the construction of the Sainsbury Wing, a post-modern style expansion designed by American architect Robert Venturi.
The National Gallery was founded in 1824, housed in a rather small building on Pall Mall, with a view to publicly present a collection of European paintings capable to promote art education, as well as inspiring a new generation of British painters.
Due to the huge success of the museum, and its growing collection, the National Gallery’s trustees took the decision to move the gallery into a new building, on the then-recently built Trafalgar Square, which is the current home of the museum.
National Gallery, London, the monumental facade on Trafalgar Square. Photo © Inexhibit
The permanent collection of the National Gallery consists of an exceptional ensemble of masterpieces, especially of Italian Renaissance Art and French Impressionism.
The collection originated from the personal collection of the 18th-century banker John Julius Angerstein and is currently composed of over 2,000 paintings, dating from the 13th century to the 19th century. The collection is ideally divided into four chronological sections.
The first section, from the 13th century to the 15th century, focuses on Italian and European painting and includes works by Duccio da Buonisegna, Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi, Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Memling, Giovanni Bellini, an others, and including the famous Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck.
The second section, dedicated to 16th-century art, presents works by Leonardo da Vinci, Lucas Cranach, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), Hans Holbein the Younger, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Agnolo Bronzino, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), and Paolo Veronese, to name just a few, and also includes the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci.
The third section is focused on 17th-century Mannerist and Baroque painting and includes Italian, Spanish, and Dutch works also by Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), Peter Paul Rubens, Nicholas Poussin, Antony Van Dyck, Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn), and Johannes Vermeer.
Finally, the fourth section covers the period between the 18th century and the early 20th century, including Impressionism and post-Impressionism, with works by Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal), Francisco Goya, William Turner, John Constable, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh (with some of the most renowned masterpieces of the Dutch painter, including its world-famous Sunflowers).
Furthermore, each month, at the National Gallery, a work of art is specially presented as Painting of the Month.
Medieval Italian painting rooms in the Sainsbury Wing. Photo © National Gallery, London
The program of activities and events of the National Gallery in London features temporary exhibitions, guided tours, art workshops, special events, musical concerts, and activities for families, children, and schools.
The museum building, fully accessible to physically-impaired persons, also contains a restaurant, two cafes, and three book and gift shops.
National Gallery, exterior view at night. Photo © National Gallery, London
An exterior view of the Sainsbury Wing expansion designed by Robert Venturi in the early 1990s. Photo © National Gallery, London
A room dedicated to Baroque portrait painting. Photo © National Gallery, London
Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin of the Rocks, about 1491-9 and 1506-8, oil on panel. Photo © National Gallery, London
Cover image, National Gallery, the main facade on Trafalgar Square. Photo © Inexhibit
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