Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

The National Gallery, London

National Gallery London

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London, is an art museum founded in 1824. Its collection includes over 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th century to the 20th century. It is one of the most visited art museums in the world, and its principal building facade facing Trafalgar Square has not changed for two-hundred years.

The National Gallery presents the story of European art, one masterpiece at a time over seven centuries of art history. Its collection representations of all the major art movements during this period. This book uses the Masterpieces of the National Gallery to tell the story of Western European painting.

Explore The National Gallery

13th Century Paintings

14th Century Paintings

15th Century Paintings

16th Century Paintings

17th Century Paintings

18th Century Paintings

19th Century Paintings

20th Century Paintings

Explore The National Gallery

The History of The National Gallery

The History of the National Gallery, started when the British government bought 38 paintings in 1824 from the heirs of a London businessman who was a patron of the fine arts and a collector. It was the prospect that his critical collection of paintings was about to be sold by his estate, and be lost to the nation, that galvanized the founding of the National Gallery. Unlike art museums in continental Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalizing an existing royal collection. It came into being after the initial 1824 purchase and by private donations, which today account for the majority of the collection. The National Gallery collection today covers most of the significant developments in Western painting.

The present building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed starting in 1832. Only the façade onto Trafalgar Square remains mostly unchanged from that time, the rest of the building has been expanded piecemeal over the last nearly 200 years. The original building was criticized for its lack of space, which led to the establishment of the Tate Gallery for British art in 1897. The most recent extension of the National Gallery was the Sainsbury Wing, an extension to the west, which is a notable example of Postmodernist architecture in Britain.

Key historical Milestones in the History of the National Gallery include:

  • 1793 – The Louvre was formed out of the former French royal collection.
  • 1805 – The “British Institution” was founded by a group of aristocratic connoisseurs, attempted to address this the lack of a National European Collection.
  • 1824 – The British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein.
  • 1824 – The National Gallery opened to the public, housed in Angerstein’s former townhouse at No. 100 Pall Mall.
  • 1832 – Construction began on the current building in Charing Cross, in an area that had been transformed over the 1820s into Trafalgar Square.
  • 1906 – The first acquisition by the National Art Collections Fund, was Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus.
  • 1940 – With the outbreak of World War II,  paintings were evacuated to various locations in Wales.
  • 1991 – The Sainsbury Wing was built as the west wing.
  • 2004 – The first phase of the East Wing Project opened to the public.
  • 2014 – The first major American painting to be purchased by the Gallery – “Men of the Docks” by George Bellows.

Your Visit to The National Gallery

The National Gallery is visited by millions of people every year, and it is free to visit the permanent collections at the British Museum. Special Exhibits have a fee for entry; however, the majority of the museum is free.  Before your visit, please check the museum’s website to confirm your visit details.

Tips for the National Gallery

Avoid Peak Times

Plan to visit the most famous objects of the museum at the first opening hour or during the late-night openings. Reserve the middle of the day for the less popular galleries. See your favorite masterpieces first thing in the morning or during a late-night session.

Introductory Tours

Check if the museum offers free tours or fee-based tours. Confirm availability via the website or at the information counter. There are also private tours available depending on your interests. A guided tour is an excellent way to gain an introductory overview of the many collections.

Take multiple visits and breaks

Entry to the National Gallery is free, so you do not need to see everything in just one visit. Spread your experience over multiple visits and take breaks for food and hydration. Reading this book during a tea or coffee break is a great way to refresh in between gallery visits.

Prepare in advance

Research the best underground tube location from your home base and how to get to the museum from the train station. Prepare in advance with a general idea of how to get to the museum.

Use the Museum Map

A map with the general layout of the museum, descriptions for the essential galleries, and highlight attractions within the museum is a useful aid. Plans are available at the inquiries desk and the bookshop.

The Organisation of the National Gallery Collection

The National Gallery’s rooms are organized by periods, and each century features some of the following artists.

  • 13th Centaury Paintings
    • Margarito d’Arezzo, Master of the Clarisse, Master of Saint Francis
  • 14th Centaury Paintings
    • Duccio, Unknown Masters
  • 15th Centaury Paintings
    • Jan van Eyck, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Bellini
  • 16th Centaury Paintings
    • Sebastiano del Piombo, Andrea Previtali, Titian, Hans Holbein the Younger
  • 17th Centaury Paintings
    • Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Johannes Vermeer
  • 18th Centaury Paintings
    • Thomas Gainsborough,  Joseph Wright of Derby, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
  • 19th Centaury Paintings
    • Horace Vernet, J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, Frederic Leighton, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro
  • 20th Centaury Paintings
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gustav Klimt, George Bellows

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London Map



“Which painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door, of course.”
– George Bernard Shaw


Photo Credit: By Morio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons