The National Gallery
The National Gallery proudly overlooks London’s Trafalgar Square, with its portico and dome as synonymous with the location as Nelson’s Column. The National Gallery has over 2,300 pictures ranging from the mid-13th century to 1900, encompassing everything between Early Renaissance to Post-impressionism. As a leading London and UK attraction, the National Gallery welcomes between 4-5 million visitors per year.
The National Gallery was established in 1824, when, aware of Britain’s paucity in not having a national collection, Parliament agreed to buy the collection of banker John Julius Angerstein for £57,000. As part of a national collection for the education and enjoyment of the public a gallery was built - Angerstein House on Pall Mall.
However, the gallery came under fire for inadequate accommodation. Subsequently the Trafalgar Square site was chosen for its centrality, thereby being accessible to the rich in West, and the poor of the East End. To this day the National Gallery maintains a policy of free admission, accessibility and art for all.
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The permanent collection at the National Gallery is impressive and enviable in it’s scope with many, if not most of the big names in art represented. Vincent Van Gogh’s (1858 – 1890) Sunflower is a favourite of many visitors. Painted two years before the artist’s death, the picture is one of several Van Gogh painted to decorate his friend and fellow artist’s, Paul Gauguin’s bedroom.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is represented with Virgin of the Rocks, a work that was commissioned to be painted by the artist on an elaborate sculpture in Italy. Although completed around 1508, it was another 25 years before the work adorned the central arch of the sculpture.
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) makes an appearance for the impressionists with Bathers at La Grenouillere, a refreshing work depicting a café scene on the Seine at Bourgival. Painted in 1869, Monet was working alongside Renoir at the time. Small in size, and heavy on shadow, the work is most probably a forerunner for a larger work that has since been lost or never made it to canvas.
The characteristic work of Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) is also on display. The Supper at Emmaus depicts the moment after the Crucifixion when the resurrected Jesus makes himself known to two of his disciples over the dinner table. Caravaggio’s work here is unusual due to the depiction of Christ without a beard, while his attention to detail with the food on the table is uncharacteristic of similar works of the same ilk. With the dramatic expressions and gestures of the disciples in the picture, the viewer is somehow drawn into the scene.
Elsewhere, Turner, Constable, Canaletto, Rubens, Stubbs, Cezanne, Raphael, but to name a few in the pantheon of art, are all well represented and exhibited.
The gallery has drawn criticism in recent years for what many see as an aggressive policy of restoration, which many feel erases the true character of the works. The argument went all the way to a parliamentary select committee, where the National Gallery was absolved of any wrong doing.
The National Gallery opening times:
Suturday to Thursday 10am – 6pm Friday 10am – 9pm
The National Gallery
London WC2N 5DN
Art Galleries in the UK / National Gallery