Exploring the National Gallery in London

National Gallery

Art Galleries In London

London has many art museums known for their rich collection of different artworks. The National Gallery is London’s key attractions and the most prominent museum in the country. The sheer wealth of collections and capacity has made the National Gallery one of the major museums in the world. Being a must-visit attraction in London, the National Gallery is a place where the most extensive collection of European painting is displayed. These paintings date back to the last periods of the medieval ages, the Renaissance, and to the beginning of the twentieth century.

The National Gallery is widely popular among visitors and turns out to be one of the most visited attractions in London. It has a visitor turnover of 5 million a year and the figures keep on increasing year after year. The museum with its impressive collection of artworks is truly a delight for art lovers. Besides, the lavish setting and building of the museum is a sight in itself. A visit to London is almost incomplete without seeing the National Gallery. It has remained an iconic attraction just like many others in London.

A Brief History

The foundation of the National Gallery is attributed to the rise of many museums in Paris, Florence, and Italy. King George IV realized that London was missing an art gallery and museum that could help people acquaint with the world of art. His vision to form one in London was influenced by the presence of many such large art museums in different parts of Europe.

In 1824, King George IV persuaded the government to purchase the house of the late banker and art collector John Julius Angerstein. With this purchase, the remarkable collection of thirty-four paintings including the works of influential artists like Rembrandt and Rubens were also acquired. The National Gallery was first opened to the public in 1824 and was housed in the Angerstein’s residence located at Pall Mall.


The collection of artworks slowly expanded over the years, and due to this, the house became insufficient to hold the artworks. In 1868, it was shifted to Piccadilly for accommodating the growing collection of artworks and providing more space. To accommodate the paintings, a new building was constructed in 1837 at the north of Trafalgar Square. The building that currently houses the museum was completed in 1838. Further expansions led to the building of a new east wing in 1876.

However, the design that had contemporary elements had faced backlash especially from the Prince of Wales. This led to an abandonment of the design and was a more conventional design was adopted that led to the construction of the Sainsbury Wing. The National Gallery features a neoclassical design and is large and expansive. It had large interiors that offered plentiful space for housing the large collections of artworks and for the visitors to see them comfortably.

The Collections

The National Gallery holds an excellent collection of European paintings from some of the most prominent periods of history such as the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the 19th Century. The museum has put about 2300 of the paintings on permanent display for the visitors. Among these collections are the works of some of the greatest painters who influenced art such as Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt, Van Eyck, Rubens, Renoir, Cezzane, Monet, Van Gogh, and many others.

The collections are arranged in the four different sections of the gallery in a chronological order. The Sainsbury Wing is one major section that is also the newest part of the National Gallery. It houses artworks from 1260 to 1510 covering the works of many Renaissance artists. Notable works in the Sainsbury Wing includes Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, Da Vinci’s Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist.

Located in the West Wing are the works are works of High Renaissance from Italy, France, and the Netherlands. This includes collections of work by artists such as Michelangelo, Correggio, and El Greco. In the North Wing of the museum are some of the works of more popular figures in art such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Vermeer, and Rubens. A popular area of the National Gallery is the East Wing that contains the works of many prominent British painters.

Entering the National Gallery

The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square in Central London. Entry to the museum entry is free except for viewing special temporary exhibitions. The prices for viewing such special exhibitions are £14 per person; £12 for seniors above 60. For students and job seekers, the entry fee for viewing special exhibitions is £7.

The National Gallery is open daily from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm. However, on Fridays, the museum will remain open until 09:00 pm. The museum contains shops that sell books, gifts, and prints that visitors can purchase. Moreover, the museum has a National Dining Room, National Café, and Espresso bar that offer British and European Menu as well as light refreshments.