Opened in 1856, this was the first portrait gallery in the world. It was built to house portraits of historically important and famous British people, based on the subject, rather than the artist.
Opened in 1856, this was the first portrait gallery in the world. It was built to house portraits of historically important and famous British people, based on the subject, rather than the artist. It is sponsored by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, and has three outposts at Beningbrough Hall, Bodelwyddan Castle and Montacute House.
The collection is made up of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and caricatures. Its most famous piece is probably the Chandos portrait, a portrait of William Shakespeare. Most of the portraits are not artistically exceptional except for some self-portraits by William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds and other British artists. There is a large collection of royal portraits.
The three men responsible for the founding of the Gallery are Philip Henry Stanhope, 5th Earl Stanhope, Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle. It was Stanhope who first proposed the idea of a National Portrait Gallery in 1846. The gallery moved around a lot in the first 40 years, spending 13 years at Great George Street in Westminster, before moving to Exhibition Road, then Bethnal Green, before settling on its current site. The architect was Ewan Christian and both he and the Gallery's first director died before the building was completed in 1896. The gallery was extended a second time, funded by Sir Christopher Ondaatje and a £12m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, with the extension opening in 2000. In 2012, the Duchess of Cambridge named the gallery as one of her official patronages.
National Portrait Gallery
St. Martin's Pl, London WC2H 0HE
Open every day 10.00-18.00; Thursdays and Fridays until 21.00.
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