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In April 1824 the House of Commons agreed to pay £57,000 for the picture collection of the banker John Julius Angerstein. His 38 pictures were intended to form the core of a new national collection which would be housed in a new building.
In 1831, Parliament agreed to construct the building for the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square which finally opened in 1838. The National Gallery had free admission and wished to appeal all sections of society. However its success led to calls to expand the building and subsequent wings were added in 1876, 1907, 1975 and 1991.
Although the collections of John Julius Angerstein and Sir George Beaumont provided the bulk of the National Gallery, in 1855 the new director Sir Charles Eastlake travelled throughout Europe to purchase pictures for the collection. Within 10 years the Gallery’s collection of Italian painting was considered one of the best in the world.
When the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner bequeathed over 1000 paintings, drawings and watercolours to the collection in 1856, it was decided to exhibit British works in a separate premises. Eventually a site was found at Millbank and the Gallery opened in 1897. The new gallery was officially known the National Gallery of British Art, changing its name to the National Gallery, Millbank in 1917. The wealthy industrialist, Henry Tate, offered his collection to the nation and funded the gallery which led to the gallery later becoming known as the Tate Gallery. Therefore ironically the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square only possessed a small selection of British pictures as the majority were transferred to the Tate which up to 1955 was under the administration of the National Gallery.
The National Gallery Collection contains over 2,300 works, including many famous works, such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
All major traditions of Western European painting are represented from the artists of late medieval and Renaissance Italy to the French Impressionists.
13th- to 15th-century paintings
Duccio, Uccello, van Eyck, Lippi, Mantegna, Botticelli, Dürer, Memling, Bellini
Leonardo, Cranach, Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein, Bruegel, Bronzino, Titian, Veronese
Caravaggio, Rubens, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Claude, Rembrandt, Cuyp, Vermeer
18th- to early 20th-century paintings
Canaletto, Goya, Turner, Constable, Ingres, Degas, Cézanne, Monet, Van Gogh
A Young Woman standing at a Virginal -Johannes Vermeer about 1670-2
Bacchus and Ariadne – Titian 1520-3
Bathers at Asnières – Georges Seurat 1884
Doge Leonardo Loredan – Giovanni Bellini 1501-2
Equestrian Portrait of Charles I – Anthony van Dyck about 1637-8
Mr and Mrs Andrews – Thomas Gainsborough about 1750
Samson and Delilah – Peter Paul Rubens about 1609-10
Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula – Claude 1641
Self Portrait at the Age of 34 – Rembrandt 1640
Sunflowers – Vincent van Gogh 1888
The Ambassadors – Hans Holbein the Younger 1533
The Arnolfini Portrait – Jan van Eyck 1434
The Battle of San Romano – Paolo Uccello probably about 1438-40
The Entombment – Michelangelo about 1500-1
The Fighting Temeraire –Joseph Mallord William Turner 1839
The Hay Wain – John Constable 1821
The Madonna of the Pinks (‘La Madonna dei Garofani’) – Raphael about 1506-7
The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’) – Diego Velázquez 1647-51
The Virgin of the Rocks from Panels from the S. Francesco Altarpiece, Milan
Leonardo da Vinci about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8
The Wilton Diptych – English or French (?)about 1395-9
Venus and Mars – Sandro Botticelli about 1485
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 9pm
The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
For more information visit the National Gallery website here
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