The National Gallery is the primary British national public art gallery. It is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of Western European paintings. Founded in 1824, it started with just a few dozens of paintings purchased from the banker John Angerstein. The small size of the building where they were displayed– Angerstein’s house – was compared with other national art galleries, such as the Louvre in Paris, and was heavily ridiculed in the press. Thus a new large building with commitment to free access to all social classes was opened in 1838. The collection now has about 2,300 paintings.
The collection stores paintings from many famous Italian artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and Botticelli.
The National Gallery has many Dutch paintings thanks to King George IV (1762–1830) who was an enthusiastic admirer of art of this period and his Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, who had a magnificent collection that came to the National Gallery after his death.
The Sunflowers. Van Gogh (1888)
The collection at the Gallery also includes the Chair of Van Gogh.
Self Portrait at the age of 34. Rembrandt, 1640 (Room 24)
French Paintings: A quick guide to Impressionism
The term ‘Impressionist’ was first used in response to an exhibition of new paintings in Paris in 1874. A diverse group of painters, rejected by traditional galleries and artists, defiantly set up their own exhibition. They included Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Degas.
Impressionist painters favour landscapes and suburban life, painted in bright, pure colours. Impressionists often took inspiration in nature and began their paintings outdoors rather than in a studio. Their rapidly applied brushstrokes are often visible.
Today, the Impressionist paintings are some of the best known and best loved in the collection.