Bringing people and paintings together
Our objectives are to care for the collection, to enhance it for future generations, and to study it. We aim to be a resource on art for the whole world, to inspire present and future generations.
The National Gallery, London is home to one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world. These pictures belong to the public and they are free for all to see.
Learn about our Director and Board of Trustees, and see our policies, financial statements, and plans for the future.
All major traditions of Western European painting are presented, from the artists of late medieval and Renaissance Italy, to the French Impressionists.
In the 15th century, portraits and scenes from ancient history and mythology increased in importance. Realism changed the way sacred subjects were painted. Technical advances, such as oil paint, meant that artists could paint facial expression and surface textures with greater subtlety.
The leading artists of this period achieved a fame that has never diminished. Especially in Italy, Renaissance painters sought to rival and surpass the artists of ancient Greece and Rome.
Portraitists were highly prized and pictures of ancient history and mythology became almost as important as Christian subjects. Paintings were appreciated for their artistry as much as for their subject matter, and often placed in specially created galleries.
While some artists of this period looked to the art of the past for inspiration, they always imparted their own style, from the flamboyant to the austere. Religious subjects were treated in novel ways to engage the emotions of the viewer.
In the Netherlands, specialist painters of still lifes, landscapes and scenes of everyday life – from elegant social gatherings to lively scenes in taverns – enjoyed great popularity.
Although the production of grand paintings for churches and palaces continued, it became more common for artists to paint smaller works that were exhibited and sold through art dealers and public exhibitions.
In the 19th century, art movements (loose associations of artists working in a similar style), such as the Impressionists emerged, as did the idea of the independent artist who rebelled against the official art establishment.
Celebrating our history
Explore the history of the National Gallery – from the origins of the collection to the present day
Read about our plans for the future in the National Gallery Strategic Plan 2021-2026.
Building towards our Bicentenary
We are completing an initial phase of works to our Trafalgar Square buildings, to improve the ‘welcome’ we provide to our visitors.