National Gallery London
History, Permanent Collection, Top Paintings, Exhibitions.

Samson and Delilah (1609-1610)
By the Baroque painter Rubens.

One of many masterpieces in the
National Gallery, London.

National Gallery London


Permanent Collection
Painting Masterpieces
Art Museums in Europe

The National Gallery in London, one of the world's best art museums, is based in Trafalgar Square and contains over 2,300 Western European paintings in it's permanent collection. These paintings belong to the public and entrance to the gallery is free, although visitors have to pay to view certain temporary art shows.

Before visiting the National
Gallery in London, please see
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

For some of the most important
artists of the 18th/19th centuries
see: Best English Painters.

For UK painters (1960-2000),
see Contemporary British Painting

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History of the National Gallery

Unlike other famous art museums like the Paris Louvre or the Prado in Madrid, the National Gallery did not begin by nationalising a royal collection. Instead, it came about through the House of Commons (the UK Parliament) who in 1824 agreed to pay £57,000 for the painting collection owned a banker called John Julius Angerstein. A total of 38 paintings were purchased and housed temporarily in Angerstein's house in Pall mall until a suitable gallery could be constructed. In 1823 the landscape painter and collector of art, Sir George Beaumont promised his collection of paintings to the state on the condition that suitable accommodation was provided for their display. Initially they also went on view in Pall Mall, until the whole collection was moved to Trafalgar Square in 1838.

Uffizi Gallery Florence
Pitti Palace, Florence
Capodimonte Museum, Naples
Vatican Museums
Raphael Rooms (Vatican)
Doria Pamphilj Gallery
Guggenheim Venice
Mauritshuis Art Museum
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Hermitage St Petersburg
Tretyakov Gallery Moscow
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
Prado Museum Madrid
Reina Sofia, Madrid

The current gallery has been expanded significantly since it's foundation, in fact, only the facade onto Trafalgar Square remains as it did in 1838. Several additions have been made to the building including the Sainsbury wing, which was built in 1991 to house the collection of Renaissance paintings.

National Art Collections Fund

At the turn of of the century the agricultural crisis forced many aristocratic families to sell their paintings. Many of these paintings were ending up in the United States, which prompted the foundation of the National Art Collections Fund. The first purchase of the fund, on behalf of the National Gallery, was Velazquez's Rokeby Venus in 1906.

For a list of the finest works of
painting and sculpture, by the
world's most famous artists, see:
Greatest Paintings Ever
Oils, watercolours, mixed media
from 1300-present.
Greatest Sculptures Ever
Works in stone, bronze, wood
from 33,000 BCE-present.

For details of any important
art shows being staged at the
National Gallery London,
see: Art News Headlines.

Finest Art Museums in America.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest view painters, see:
Best Landcape Artists.
For the greatest still life art, see:
Best Still Life Painters.
For the greatest portraitists
see: Best Portrait Artists.
For the greatest genre-painting, see:
Best Genre Painters.
For the top allegorical painting,
see: Best History Painters.

For an outstanding collection of
Judaica, crafts and artifacts,
see: Jewish Art Museum.

Other wealthy donators helped to grow the galleries collection including the industrialist Dr Ludwig Mond who gave 42 Italian renaissance paintings and Sir Hugh Lane (who died on the Lusitania in 1915) who left 39 paintings in his will. There was some controversary over the latter donation as he made an unwitnessed amendment to his will before dying, that the works should go to Ireland. It wasn't until 1959 that this dispute was settled and the Hugh Lane collection is now on permanent loan to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. In recent years there have been two major fund-raising campaigns. In 2004, £35m was raised to buy Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks and, in 2008, £50m was raised to buy Titian's Diana and Actaeon. The National Gallery is now largely priced out of the market for major works by Old Masters and can only make acquisitions with the help of public appeals.

Permanent Collection

The collection of the National Gallery London can be divided into the following styles and periods of art.

Dutch School

The Dutch school features mainly Dutch Realist genre painting of the 17th century, including some of the greatest genre paintings by Pieter de Hooch (1629-84), Rembrandt (1620-91), Aelbert Cuyp (1620-91), Aernout van der Neer (1603-77), Jan Steen (1626–79) and Johannes Vermeer (1632-75).

English School

The English School is most recognised by romantic painter John Constable (1776-1837) - his painting The Hay Wain (1821) is a national treasure.

The Gallery has 11 paintings by portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) including his famous Mr and Mrs Andrews (c.1750).

There are 8 paintings by artist, printmaker and cartoonist William Hogarth (1697-1764) including his Marriage a la Mode: The Marriage Settlement (c.1743).

There are also a number of fine paintings from other English artists such as John Hoppner, Thomas Lawrence, Joshua Reynolds, George Stubbs, Joseph Wright of Derby and Richard Wilson., as well as the decorative artists/sculptors Alfred Stevens and George Frederick Watts.

• For more about figure work, see: English Figurative Painting.
• For details of scenic art, see: English Landscape Painting.

See also our article: How To Appreciate Paintings.

Flemish School

The gallery owns 3 paintings by the Flemish artist Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) including The Interior of a Gothic Church looking East (1604).

The Flemish school is also represented by paintings from Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Petrus Christus, Jan van Eyck, Jan Mabuse, Quentin Matsys, Hans Memling, Peter Paul Rubens, David Teniers the Younger and Anthony van Dyck.

French School

Different movements in the French school are well represented in the gallery collection.

There are 19 paintings by Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-26), including examples of his monumental Waterlily series; several by Manet (1832-83), Camille Pissarro (1830 –1903), Paul Cezanne (1839–1906), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Edgar Degas (1834–1917) and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875).

Also on view are still life master Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-1779), neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Romantic painters and lithographers Theodore Gericault (1791-1824) and Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863), classical artist Nicolas Poussin (1594-1655) and Rococo painters Francois Boucher (1703-70) and Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).

German School

The German school is represented by some of the greatest portrait paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543), as well as works by German Renaissance painter, printmaker and theorist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), engraver and portraitist Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) and neoclassical painter Johann Zoffany (1733–1810).

Italian School

Renaissance fine art is amply represented at the gallery with paintings from the Proto-Renaissance by Giotto di Bondone and Duccio di Buoninsegna; from the Early Renaissance by Fra Angelico, Sandro Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Masaccio, Andrea Mantegna, and Paolo Uccello; from the High Renaissance by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Giovanni Bellini and Titian, the leading painter of the 16th-century Venetian school; from the Mannerist period by Parmigianino, Caravaggio and Tintoretto. There are also Rococo works by the great fresco painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Spanish School

The Spanish school is represented by artists Francisco Goya (1746–1828), Baroque painters Bartolome-Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) and Diego Velazquez 1599–1660), painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Francisco Zurbaran (1598–1664) who was nicknamed the Spanish Caravaggio.

Female Artists in the National Gallery Collection

Female painters are well represented at the gallery, and include the following artists and paintings:

- Catharina van Hemessen (1527-1566), Portrait of a Man (1552)
- Judith Leyster (1609-60), A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel (c.1635)
- Marie Blancour, A Bowl of Flowers (c.1650)
- Rachel Ruysch, (1664-1750), Flowers in a Vase (1690)
- Rosalba Giovanna Carriera (1675-1757), Portrait of a Man (c.18th Century)
- Elizabeth Louise Veigee Le Brun (1755-1842) Self Portrait, Straw Hat (1782)
- Rosa Bonheur (1822-99), The Horse Fair (1855)
- Berthe Morisot (1841-95), Summer's Day (c.1879)

Top 30 Paintings in the National Gallery Collection

The Hay Wain, John Constable
Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough
Arnolfini Portrait, Jan Van Eyck
Samson and Delilah, Peter Paul Rubens
Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci
Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli
Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio
The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger
Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, Anthony Van Dyck
A Young Woman standing at a Virginal, Jan Vermeer
Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh
Bathers at Asnières, Georges Seurat
The Fighting Temeraire, Joseph Mallord William Turner
Bathers at La Grenouillère, Claude Monet
The Large Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), Paul Cezanne
The Madonna of the Pinks, Raphael
The Baptism of Christ, Piero della Francesca
Bacchus and Ariadne, Titian
Judgement of Paris, Rubens
The Stonemason's Yard, Canaletto
Whistlejacket, George Stubbs
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, Joseph Wright of Derby
The Wilton Diptych, artist unknown
Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula, Claude Lorrain
The Rokeby Venus, Diego Velazquez
Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame, Francois-Hubert Drouais
Madame Moitessier, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
• The Battle of San Romano, by the Florentine Paolo Uccello
The Doge Leonardo Loredan, Giovanni Bellini

Contact Details

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
Phone: +44 (207) 747-2885

• For details of the development of painting and sculpture, see: History of Art.
• For more information about the world's greatest art museums, see: Homepage.

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