National Portrait Gallery, London

St Martin’s Place, London
Greater London, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)20 7306 0055
closed on: open daily
Museum Type: Art, History / City

The National Portrait Gallery in London is a museum dedicated to portraiture and one of the most popular cultural destinations in Britain.

Like its American “cousin” in Washington, D.C., the National Portrait Gallery in London is an institution aimed to promote art and portrait painting in particular, and at the same time celebrate the national history and notable people through pictures.

History and building
Since 1896, the museum, which was founded in 1856, is housed in a late-19th-century neoclassic building, adjacent to the National Gallery and close to Trafalgar Square, designed by architect Ewan Christian.
The National Portrait Gallery was at first conceived to present portraits of prominent British personalities. Consequently, though also a number of works by famed artists are on exhibition in the museum’s galleries, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery was originally focused more on history than on art.

What to see at the National Portrait Gallery
The permanent collection of the NPG is composed of over 11,000 pieces – paintings, drawings, works on paper, photos, sculptures, and even caricatures – dating from the Tudor period to the present day.
The collection includes works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Anthony Van Dick, William Hogarth, William Blake, and Gilbert&George, among others. Yet, the collection is artistically a bit disappointing, with many “copies after” compared to original artworks; nevertheless, it is very certainly interesting from a historical point of view, and a must-see for all people interested in portraiture.

Over time, the National Portrait Gallery has become a reference center for portraiture in general and its activity is currently largely based on temporary exhibitions, research programs, and learning courses for adults and children.

The museum’s building also includes a library, a book and gift shop, and a rooftop restaurant-
The library is accessible by appointment. The National Portrait Gallery is accessible to physically-impaired people.

Along with its London home, the National Portrait Gallery network also includes three outposts outside London: Beningbrough Hall in North Yorkshire, Bodelwyddan Castle in Wales, and Montacute House in South Somerset.

National Portrait Gallery London interior 2

National Portrait Gallery London 2

National Portrait Gallery, interior views. Photos by Ungry Young Man (CC BY 2.0) and Carolien Coenen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

National Portrait Gallery London interior 1

A statue of British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. Photo Tom Flemming (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Cover image, the entrance of the National Portrait Gallery on St. Martin’s Place, London. Photo ©  Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit

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