The National Gallery houses paintings of rich artistic and historical significance dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Among London’s most popular tourist attractions for scholars and the general public alike, the National Gallery remains open nearly every day of the year, with free admission. It serves as home to one of the world’s most extensive groupings of Western European art. Among its holdings are Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh and the Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez. The centuries represented also encompass paintings by da Vinci, Goya, van Eyck, Rembrandt, and Botticelli.
In the 1820s, the British government purchased a collection of three dozen paintings from John Julius Angerstein, a banker. These works formed the nucleus of the museum, which has since added thousands of other pieces. Sir George Beaumont, an artist and collector, bequeathed his own collection to the country in 1823, and in 1826, these works found a home next to Angerstein’s collection. The National Gallery relocated in 1838 from its home in the banker’s Pall Mall residence to its current location on Trafalgar Square. Today, its staff members aim to balance the mission of caring for the vast collection with making it available for the enjoyment and education of the entire public.
From its earliest days, those entrusted with overseeing the National Gallery worked to ensure the widest possible general access. They selected Trafalgar Square as its permanent location because it lay in easy carriage-driving distance for the well-to-do and within walking distance for the East End’s poor population.