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About Research

Research is a constant and fundamental activity at the National Gallery, helping to underpin many areas of our work

Research findings feed into the work of many departments at the Gallery and support: 

  • 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, our collection is one of the most closely studied and thoroughly researched in the world.

We can answer enquiries about our library and archive collections, including the history of the Gallery and its Collection, and schedule research appointments, but we are unable to give general information about art or artists or to give valuations of works of art.

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National Gallery Research Centre


Researching the paintings

The Gallery is 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 the pictures in our collection – even the best known.

We continue 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 in our care means that the information about them remains up-to-date and available to the public.

Scholarship at the Gallery

Image: Books from the Agnew Archive in the National Gallery Library © The National Gallery, London

The Gallery has pioneered and maintains a tradition of scholarly collaboration between dedicated teams of curators, scientists, conservators and archivists. Our 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 36th year.

We see ourselves at the heart of a thriving community of art historians. By forging links with other organisations, we seek 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 [external link] and by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council  [external link].

Research themes