National Gallery

National Gallery (34)

Situated on the north side of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is one of the best art galleries in the world. Its collection numbers more than 2,300 works that cover the history of western European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries.

The first acquisitions were made in 1824, when the government bought 38 canvases from the banker John Julius Angerstein by grand masters such as Rubens, Raphael, Rembrandt and Titian, the idea being to create a museum to show them. Until the current building was built, the works were on show in the banker’s private residence, in Pall Mall.

In 1832 they began the construction works according to the design of William Wilkins, which were completed in 1838. The result was a graceful neoclassical building that features the Corinthian colonnade that supports the portico, which in turn is crowned by a dome. 

The museum has undergone many enlargements; for example the Sainsbury wing, work of Roberto Venturi, opened in 1991, houses the works dating from 1250 to 1500. The main body of the collections is distributed among the four wings that show us, chronologically, the evolution of painting in different European countries. Of particular interest are the examples of Italian and Flemish painting from the early Renaissance.

Entry to the National Gallery is free, which means that at weekends there are long queues. However, the great masterpieces on show here make the wait worthwhile. There are also free guided visits every day. You only have to pay an entrance for the temporary exhibitions.

Some of the most famous canvases that feature among these collections include The Arnolfini Marriage, by Jan van Eyck, one of the two versions of The Virgin of the Rocks, by Leonardo da Vinci, or Venus at her Mirror by Velázquez. Also here is Samson and Delilah, by Rubens, one of the Sunflower paintings by Van Gogh and the Bathers at Asnieres, by Georges Seurat. 

The function of the National gallery does not end with its magnificent collection. It is always in constant activity proposing different educational events, some of which are specially designed for children and which the whole family can enjoy. It has a full programme of talks, conferences, courses, workshops, events and film shows. Moreover, the majority are free.

Now you just have to enjoy one of the best collections in the world. Also, if you fancy, you can have a coffee in one of its cafés, such as the Espresso Bar or take home any art object on sale in the museum shop.

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