12 Facts About National Gallery


Unlike comparable museums in continental Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalising an existing royal or princely art collection.

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The twenty-five paintings from that collection now in the National Gallery, including "NG1", arrived later by a variety of routes.

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Subsidence in No 100 caused the National Gallery to move briefly to No 105 Pall Mall, which the novelist Anthony Trollope described as a "dingy, dull, narrow house, ill-adapted for the exhibition of the treasures it held".

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The move to Manod confirmed the importance of storing paintings at a constant temperature and humidity, something the National Gallery's conservators had long suspected but had hitherto been unable to prove.

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In other respects Victorian tastes were rehabilitated: the building's interiors were no longer considered an embarrassment and were restored, and in 1999 the National Gallery accepted a bequest of 26 Italian Baroque paintings from Sir Denis Mahon.

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The National Gallery is largely priced out of the market for Old Master paintings and can only make such acquisitions with the backing of major public appeals; the departing director Charles Saumarez Smith expressed his frustration at this situation in 2007.

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In 2014 the National Gallery was the subject of a documentary film by Frederick Wiseman.

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The National Gallery had long sought expansion into this space and in 1982 a competition was held to find a suitable architect; the shortlist included a radical high-tech proposal by Richard Rogers, among others.

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The National Gallery's detractors accused it of having had an over-zealous approach to restoration.

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The first cleaning operation at the National Gallery began in 1844 after Eastlake's appointment as Keeper, and was the subject of attacks in the press after the first three paintings to receive the treatment – a Rubens, a Cuyp and a Velazquez – were unveiled to the public in 1846.

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Decades later, the attribution of a 17th-century painting of Samson and Delilah to Rubens has been contested by a group of art historians, who believe that the National Gallery has not admitted the mistake to avoid embarrassing those who were involved in the purchase, many of whom still work for the Gallery.

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In February 2019 an Employment Tribunal ruled that the National Gallery had incorrectly classed its team of educators as self-employed contractors.

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