For those who love both art and London, you’re no doubt familiar with the world-famous National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.
The National Gallery was established in 1824 as a response to the increase of art investments by the British government. The first building acquired was No.100 Pall Mall – the previous townhouse of the deceased John Julius Angerstein, whose estate also donated to the gallery’s collection. Building on the current gallery home began in 1832 and was finished in 1838, at which point, the collection was transferred from Angerstein’s house. Now it is one of the most famous and popular tourist destinations not only in London but the entire planet.
In fact, The National Gallery in London is ranked 7th in the world in terms of popularity.
When booking a trip to London, and a stay at one of the top boutique hotels in West End London, you definitely need to add a visit to this gallery to your list of things to see and do. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite fun facts about the gallery to help get you inspired… and excited!
After all that exploring, why not relax at The Piccadilly London West End Spa, which is open for reservations to both guests and those staying outside of the hotel.
1. The Artistic War Effort
To avoid damaging the nation’s artistic treasures during World War II, plans were already in place to relocate the collection from the gallery as early as 1938. After the signing of the Munich Accord, the paintings were transferred back to the gallery from Wales. However, when the war actually broke out in 1939, the paintings were moved once again, which was 10 days before war was declared.
2. The Famous Faces Whose Artwork Graces the Walls
The National Gallery is home to some of the most famous works in the world, by the most celebrated artists. It also has the amazing power to take you back to the painter’s era. A waltz through the walls will reveal work by the likes of Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Titian, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, Seurat, Caravaggio, Nicolas Poussin, Hans Holbein the Younger and many other names. Rub shoulders will more famous faces by catching a show and dinner with friends or colleagues at great meeting places in West End London.
3. It’s a True Tourist Hot Spot
While tourists will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding amazing places to see in London, the National Gallery remains one of the most loved and visited year on year. Estimates show that at over a whopping 5 million people visit this gallery every year, and it’s positive to see that there’s been approximately a 10% increase in the last decade. As it’s now so popular, there are loads of great hotel options nearby for all travellers and lots of great corporate accommodation London West End nearby.
4. Leave Your Wallet at Home
You’ll be pleased to know that as well as being the place to see some of the best art in the world, it’s also totally free to enter. The gallery mostly funds itself from donations, investments, and grants, as well as a few other income sources. The gallery has a vast collection of 2,300 beautiful and rare pieces that you can see without spending a penny. The first collection purchased for the gallery came from Angerstein’s estate, for which the British government paid £57,000.
Now that is good value! You’ll also have more cash to spend on accommodation, taking advantage of last-minute hotels London West End, too.
5. Art in The Women’s Suffragette Movement
At the turn of the century, as the women’s suffrage movement grew all the more frustrated by Parliament’s lack of action on their concerns, some suffragettes turned to more extreme means of communicating their anger at the patriarchal system. This included acts of both vandalism and arson at key points throughout London. One such suffragette, Mary Richardson, smuggled a meat cleaver into the gallery and used it to tear the Rokeby Venus by Diego Valesquez.
6. It’s Not All Paintings
Whilst you may come for the paintings, you’ll also spot some inspiring statues on your visit. Inside the gallery, you’ll see the incredible statues of King James II and, perhaps a little surprisingly, the former American President George Washington. The latter piece is known to be a gift from the Commonwealth of Virginia to the National Gallery back in 1921. The gallery is also home to many collections of the kings of Roman Empire and Greek legends.
7. An Artistic Education
As well as to delight, excite and inspire its visitors, another aim of the National Gallery is to encourage learning about art. So much so that The Royal Academy of Arts was once housed in the National Gallery building at Trafalgar Square. Even though the Academy relocated to its own building in 1869, the National Gallery continues to be committed to education and makes itself available to students and scholars for research, seminars, and much more.
8. Awe-Inspiring Mosaics
Some of the first pieces of art to greet its visitors are the mosaics put together by Boris Anrep between 1928 and 1933 in the lobby of the grand Main Hall. He annexed another in 1952 portraying “The Modern Virtues” that incorporated many famous faces, including the likes of Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, and Virginia Woolf.
9. Vincent Van Gogh’s Famous Sunflowers Painting
One of the most prolific artists to have work displayed in the gallery is without a doubt Vincent Van Gogh, and he has several different pieces adorned on the walls. Among all the paintings in the gallery, Sunflowers by Van Gogh, found in room 43, remains the centre of the entire gallery. The artist painted the picture in the summer of the year 1888 directly from the subject he was portraying. He intended to use the artwork to decorate a friend’s private workshop, but it has since become one of his most celebrated pieces throughout the world.