The National Portrait Gallery presents images of the British people. Its collection includes 200,000 portraits from the 16th century to the present day. In addition to painted portraits, there are drawings miniatures, negatives, photographs, miniatures, prints and sculptures.
In some ways, the National Portrait Gallery is as much a history museum as an art museum. One of its missions is to display portraits of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture. As a result, many of the portraits in the primary collection are of famous British people. Often the work is primarily of interest because of the subject rather than because of the artistic merit of the work.
The Gallery's other mission, however, is to act as a focus for the study and understanding of portraits and portraiture. Accordingly, the collection contains a number of famous works and works by well-known artists such as English portraitists Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The collection also has works by the American artist John Singer Sargent who became the leading portrait painter in Britain around the turn of the century.
In addition to the primary collection, the National Portrait Gallery hosts temporary exhibits. These are based on different themes and often include more contemporary portraits of less well-known sitters.
The exhibit areas are a mixture of relatively small 19th century rooms and larger rooms in the newer portions of the building. The larger rooms are used for the temporary exhibits.
Activities such as drawing classes, talks, discussion groups and live music are also offered by the Gallery.
The National Portrait Gallery has two restaurants, one of which, the Portrait Restaurant offers views of the surrounding city. There is also a bar in the main hall on evenings when the Gallery is open late.
Founded in 1846, the National Portrait Gallery is located behind the National Gallery on St. Martin Place. (Thus, it is only a few feet from Trafalgar Square). It has been at this location since 1896. Prior to that it was at various locations around London. The current building was expanded in 1933 and then again in 2000.
Admission to the National Portrait Gallery is free. However, there can be a charge to see the temporary exhibits.
It is open every day except Christmas and Boxing Day. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Thursdays and Fridays when the Gallery stays open to 9 p.m.
For more information see the National Portrait Gallery website
Cruise destination - England - Visiting the National Portrait Gallery