At the National Gallery
Eastlake’s association with the National Gallery started in 1843 when he was appointed to be its second Keeper, a position he retained for four years until he resigned – apparently to have more time for his painting and writing, but presumably also because of the negative press commentary about his role in the controversial cleaning programme of the pictures during the early 1840s.
Director of the Gallery
In 1850 he became a trustee of the Gallery (an ex-officio position due to his being President of the Royal Academy). In 1855 he was appointed the Gallery’s first Director. He chose Ralph Nicholas Wornum to act as Keeper and Otto Mündler as Travelling Agent, securing an annual purchase grant of £10,000. To this end he spent every summer abroad, usually in the company of his wife, Elizabeth, who was a writer, art critic and amateur artist.
During his directorship the Gallery acquired over 150 pictures, mainly representative of the early and later Italian Renaissance. His purchases significantly helped to transform the Gallery, changing it from a collection of acknowledged masterpieces into one that is representative of the entire tradition of western European painting. It could now rival continental galleries such as the Louvre in Paris or the Prado in Madrid.