The National Gallery
You should never miss The National Gallery when you are out visiting London. Located in Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery holds a lot of interesting treasures that one cannot find anywhere else in the world. Founded in 1824, The National Gallery houses more that 2,300 paintings from various artists from different era. Some of the paintings on display at the gallery dates as early as the middle of the 13th century. Works of famous artists like Leonardo da Vince, Michelangelo, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and many others can be found in this gallery.
History In The Making
When it comes to establishing a national art collection that showcases the history and culture of its people, Great Britain was considered as a late bloomer by European standards. While its neighboring countries already have their own my national museums, Great Britain, was content at keeping its treasures from the public.
It was not for the lack of anything worthwhile to display in a museum or gallery that the British government did not venture into setting up a national museum of its own at that time. The British government simply did not think about doing so until Sir John Wilkes started talking about the need to set up a national museum in the House of Commons that the germ of an idea was born.
Still, it took the British House of Commons more than 20 years to take the suggestion of Sir John Wilkes seriously. Unfortunately, by this time, several art collections in the country have already been sold to foreign governments. One of the most notably art collections sold at this time was that of Sir Robert Walpole which was purchased by Catherine the Great of Russia. His art collection is now on display at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
The sale of the Walpole art collection to the Russian empress renewed the arguments about the merits of setting up The National Gallery. Many people called on the government to preserve the arts and cultural heritage of the country. Fortunately, by this time, the government of Austria paid its war debts to Great Britain thus, reluctantly, the British government made decisive moves to establish The National Gallery.
About this time, the art collection of John Julius Angerstein, a Russian banker who died in 1823 was up to sale. The collection included the works of Rafael and Hogarth. Realizing the importance of the Angerstein art collection to the history of art, the House of Commons voted to purchase the Angerstein art collection in the amount of £57,000. Yes, this amount many not really sound much these days but since this happened in the years 1824, you can just imagine how much money that meant at that time.
Compared to galleries like the Louvre in Paris and the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, The National Gallery in London started with just a modest collection. At the start, there were no grand plans of nationalizing any existing royal art collection at the gallery. It took sometime for the museum’s art collection to grow. About two thirds of the entire collection of the museum came from donations from private persons and institutions. The Gallery directors greatly influenced the kind of paintings that are on display at the National Gallery. One of the most prominent Gallery directors, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake made tremendous contributions to the content of the Gallery.
Visiting The Gallery
Over the years, the art collection at the museum grew. At present, the National Gallery is one of the most favorite tourist spots in the country. The imposing building that housed the art collection is indeed a site to behold. Unfortunately, since this place has become quite a tourist destination, the place is often filled with visitors. If you want to beat the traffic and have some quite times in the Gallery, visit the Gallery early in the morning. Most people visit this place towards noon time so the place is not usually crowded early in the morning.