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About research

Research is a constant and fundamental activity at the National Gallery, helping to  underpin many areas of the Gallery’s work including:

  • Exhibitions, scholarly catalogues and other publications
  • The care and conservation of the pictures
  • Their display and interpretation

All of this research contributes to the public understanding of the National Gallery collection. As a result, this great collection is one of the most closely studied and thoroughly researched in the world.

Researching the paintings

The Gallery has become a pre-eminent centre for the research of European painting from the 13th to the early 20th centuries. Even so, there are things that remain to be discovered about all the pictures in its collection - even the best-known.

The Gallery continues to investigate:

  • How, why, when, where and by whom the paintings were made
  • Who commissioned and collected them
  • How they were used
  • What they mean

This in-depth examination of the pictures informs the up-to-date information available to the public.

Scholarship at the Gallery

The National Gallery has pioneered and maintains a tradition of scholarly collaboration between dedicated teams of curators, scientists, conservators and archivists. The Gallery’s collection catalogues are internationally recognised as setting the standard for such publications.

Scholarly articles specifically devoted to the scientific study of pictures are published in the National Gallery Technical Bulletin, now in its 33rd year.

The National Gallery sees itself at the heart of a thriving community of art historians. By forging links with other organisations, the Gallery seeks to support and advance excellence in the research of European painting, both nationally and internationally.

The Gallery’s own scholarship is enriched by our relationship with academics from other institutions, whether working as guest curators for our exhibitions or presenting papers in our active programme of conferences and seminars, some of which are jointly organised with external partners.

The National Gallery is recognised as an Independent Research Organisation by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Research themes

Art and religion

Buying, Collecting and Display

The meaning of making

Venetian art and its history