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London's 'National Portrait Gallery' first opened its doors in 1856; however in 1896 it moved to its current location just off Trafalgar Square, next to the National Gallery. According to its website at www.npg.org.uk, the gallery was created "to collect portraits of famous British men and women", which has since amounted to over 175,000 portraits from the sixteenth century to the present day. The gallery is open between the hours of 10am to 6pm everyday, except on Thursdays and Fridays when it remains open until 9pm. Exhibitions this year include one on Lucian Freud (currently on), the Queen and portraits of those contributing to the Olympic Games.
I first visited the National Portrait Gallery last summer with a friend. Sadly it is the only time I have ever been so I can only give you my experience on one exhibition and impression of it but I love art and the like, and if I complete my dream of moving back to London soon it is certainly somewhere I would love to visit consistently.
Although I was planning on visiting the gallery anyway, last July, I did realise should you be in Trafalgar Square on a hot, sticky day like it was on that day, it does provide a cheap, spontaneous respite to the central London heat and crowds.
We were staying just outside London so took a train up to Charing Cross station, the nearest one to the gallery, and walked from there. Upon arriving we asked to buy tickets to the exhibition and were provided them by an extremely friendly young lady. The exhibition was the old Hollywood one they ran between spring and autumn in 2011 and it cost us just £6 each. Good value! We walked down the corridor and stopped off at the toilets along the way; you may wonder why you need to know this but it's just to confirm they were very clean and accessible! On we went to the area of the gallery we required, and we showed our ticket to another nice girl by the door - boy, they don't hire plain looking staff, that's a certainty. Most of them were stunning continental girls, I couldn't help but notice. All the staff that I saw in the gallery were extremely kind and helpful as well. They seemed to have high standards in customer service and appearance.
It took us all of five minutes to get our tickets and enter. When we entered the room was fairly small but the exhibition was well set out, chronologically and with accompanying information about each photograph. Some I'd seen previously and some I hadn't. Being that it was relatively small, it did get a little annoying when there was someone behind you, naturally wanting to move on when you were still trying to read the writing besides the portrait. There were quite a few people at this exhibition but it wasn't unbearably overcrowded or anything. I was pleased that many of my favourites were featured there, some twice. Most portraits were as you'd expect in black and white and all very glamorous. It didn't feel like a big exhibition but there was enough to keep everyone satisfied and I enjoyed seeing every one of the portraits and information on them.
Afterwards we decided to go to the gift shop; unlike the exhibition, this was a lot more pricey. I managed to buy some postcards featuring some of the stars I'd seen at the exhibition. There were plenty of items I would have bought though: CDs, books and other little miscellaneous items. It's a shame a lot of them were slightly on the expensive side. In particular, they had a book which cost about £25, featuring beautifully, all the portraits from the exhibition. Just a shame as I decided not to bring too much money with me, otherwise I would have bought that and more.
Overall I enjoyed the trip to the gallery and certainly hope to return soon, either on a lone visit to the capital or when I have moved back there. Judging purely on this experience, it's not somewhere you could spend a whole day at, but it is a nice little stop off and so much cheaper than other places you could visit.
The gallery relies on funding, as a charity and people can donate via the website. People can become members which includes free exhibitions entries and other benefits such as discounts at the cafe, gift shop and book shop. The Duchess of Cambridge is its most famous patron, however the gallery's largest donation came from Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner who donated £5 million.
You, however, don't have to donate that much; but if you do want to help, then you can find more information about how, here:
The National Portrait Gallery is located in the heart of London, on St Martins Place beside Trafalgar Square. The NPG is located behind the National Gallery which has its front on Trafalgar Square itself. Entry to the gallery is free, however donations are encouraged and there are charges to visit some special exhibitions.
Several months ago I became interested in visiting the NPG after reading that the best and most accurate portrait of Anne Boleyn was there. Once I started thinking about it, I thought there would probably be a lot of interesting portraits of historical figures there. I visited with a friend in June this year; although she had been before she was happy to go again, which seemed like a selling point to me.
The gallery collections are organised mainly by time period. We started on the ground floor, which was modern portraits, and worked our way up. There were some photos and paintings on the ground floor of the royal family, which I was interested in. I particularly liked a recent one of Princes William and Harry which I had read about, as it showed them happy and relaxed, not too formal.
The main point of interest for me was the Tudor gallery. This featured portraits of the various Tudor monarchs, as well as portraits of the other major players from that time period. Although I had seen many of the paintings reproduced in the pages of books, it is quite another thing to see the full size version. Another interesting fact which I learnt about several pictures is that when they were closely examined using modern technology, they were found to have been painted over existing portraits, effectively meaning the canvas is secondhand - even portraits of royalty did not always warrant a new sheet.
Big disappointment however - we went through the Tudor gallery, and found no Anne Boleyn. Well, we found a miniature but that hardly counts. Such a well-known piece of the Tudor story was not present. I was a bit baffled and had a second look, looked for another room that perhaps we had missed...but nothing.
We continued strolling around the gallery, skipping some sections - portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie are interesting enough, but endless very similar portraits from the eighteenth century were not that exciting.
Having wandered through most of the galleries, we headed back downstairs and visited the computer bay, where you can search the catalogue of the NPG collection. I searched Anne Boleyn, and found that the two portraits of her which are owned by the gallery (aside from the miniature) both said "Sorry, this item is not on display". How annoying. My friend and I had a good look through the catalogue for a while, both searching for various historical and contemporary figures - and almost every one that we looked at said it wasn't on display! I understand that the full collection is so large that it cannot all be displayed, but it started to feel a bit personal when nothing we searched for was actually on display for us to see.
The gallery itself is a nice building, accessible for wheelchairs. All the rooms have appropriate lighting - the Tudor room for example was dimmer than the modern galleries, with paintings individually lit.
We visited the shop and bookshop, although we didn't buy anything. I was rather tempted by the books about the Tudor portraits, but decided against it as I have a lot of images in the general history books I own about the dynasty.
The NPG is an interesting place to visit for a few hours. I would like to go back, although I will maybe try to check online about what portraits are on display before I do! I would recommend a visit, but it will perhaps be of more interest to those who are interested in portraits or historical figures.
A welcome oasis after the hustle and bustle of Leciester Square. The National Portrait Gallery really does have something for everyone. Although you may need to pay to see some of the special exhibitions the majority of the gallery is free.
If you are a frequent visitor then you can become a member and see the special exhibits for free. I loved the Annie Leiboitiwz and Irving Penn exhibitions. If you are likely to want to see the special exhibits around 3 times a year then membership is likely to work out cheaper for you. You will also get invitiations for member previews and 10% discount for the bookshop and restaurant. Currently single membership is £35.
The ground floor contains a collection of portraits from the modern era and you are sure to recognise several famous faces. Upstairs one of my favourites areas is the Tudor one where you can see the various portraits of Queen Elizabeth I. Some of the free exhibits change which often and at the time of writing you can see exhibits for Florence Nightingale and also Glastonbury. As I said earlier "Something for everyone."
It is worthwhile to go to the café at the top of the museum for the fantastic views over London. They do a very nice afternoon tea from 3 pm. The gallery is now doing a series of "Late Night Shifts" and is opening late on Thursday and Friday evenings.
The NPG is right round the corner from the National Gallery but I think is just as worthy of a visit.
The NPG houses portraiture from the Tudors right up to modern day and actively commissions work.
The collection is arranged in chronological order and I probably spend the most time in the contemporary collection.
Obviously the older rooms are full of paintings but the newer rooms include sculpture and photography as well.
The NPG has a regular temporary exhibition, past highlights include David Hockney, Annie Leibovitz and Gay Icons. At the moment they have an exhibition with 60s photography. Although the gallery is free to enter, these temporary exibititions attract a charge.
They do have smaller temporary exhibits which are free - the recent Twiggy one being an example.
Apart from my love of portraits, my main reason for loving the NPG is the regular introduction of new portraits and new commissons. The last time I went they had a really interesting series of photographs of people involved in the Olympic bid, from engineers working on site to athletes training for 2012.
You can find a lot of portraits of people in the public eye, such as Michael Sheen (the actor) or Zaha Hadid (architect).
As it is free, if I have 15 or 30 mins to spare I often wander in and have a quick look at the latest portraits to be hung.
There is a good shop which has a selection of books, postcards, prints and gifts.
There is also a restaurant with a great London view and a cafe although I've not sampled either.
There is a strong education strand at this gallery with regular family events, talks and activities relating to the exhibitions.
They also show the Portrait Prize and Photographic Portrait Prize. These are normally either free to view or a nominal fee of £1. They are big competitions open to amateur and professional alike and attract really top quality modern portraiture. There is something for everyone and it is a pleasure to see such diversity in modern portrait painting and photography.
The National Portrait Gallery was the first of its kind in the world, established by eminent Victorians, such as Thomas Carlyle, to provide likenesses of the great individuals that influence and drive history (one of his pet theories). Of course in 150 years the notion of what it means to be a great Briton has changed somewhat as we live in an age of celebrity and even instant celebrity. Quite what Carlyle would have made of the artworks of David Beckham and David Starkey, we can only speculate. I suspect there will be iamgery of Jade Goody soon?
However, the truth is the gallery needs to have its pulse on contemporary society rather than become a static picture gallery of the self-appointed good and the great that increasingly most people do not connect with. The gallery understands this and ccordingly its special exhibition programme is well thought through and lively.
The gallery is not a 'pure' art gallery in the sense that the National Gallery around the corner is, but rather a place where visitors can learn about British society over the last few centuries through the medium of portraiture. There is as much contextual social history in this gallery as there is art (some art snobs will still say that the portraiture in the collections is not the 'finest' art in any sense).
It is also a place to contemplate identity, particularly British identity, and so the NPG provides a more focussed experience than the international art around the corner at the National Gallery.
Visit if you want some visual stimulus, some history and some critique of contemporary society. Watch the programme as London builds to the Olympics, it will be unusual and inclusive, pushing boundaries of whose image should be retained by the nation for future generations.
The National Portrait Gallery is located on St. Martin's Place in central London and is found close to the National Gallery. It is only a few minutes walk from Leicester Square. The gallery houses over 1000 portraits of men and women from the Middle Ages right up to the present day.
The museum is fairly easy to navigate and you can pick up a free map as you enter the museum which will assist you to find your way around. The rooms are also well signposted and there are lots of gallery attendants who will be able to assist you as you walk around. For a very reasonable £2 you can also get an audio guide which gives you commentaries as walk around. It also has a very clever feature that allows you to put in the number of a particular painting that you have found that is interesting and the audio guide will then give you the information on that painting.
The gallery is open daily from 10am until 6pm with the last admission at 5.50pm. On Thursdays and Fridays it is late night opening and the gallery is open until 9pm.
The gallery is spread out over 6 floors although the actual collections are housed in the ground, first and second floors. The gallery suggests that you start your visit on the second floor as this allows you to view the collection in a chronological order.
We therefore entered the gallery and made our way through the bright airy entrance up the escalator to the second floor. Here the collection begins with The Tudors. For both my husband and I this was the collection we were most interested in. My husband has a real interest in the Tudors and has read many books and we have both watched The Tudors series on television and The Other Boleyn Girl film. We were not disappointed and there are some really beautiful paintings.
Also on the second floor are portraits from the 17th century, 18th century and the 19th century. Many of the people I had not heard of but there are information cards next to the paintings telling you who they are and why they are of interest.
Down onto the first floor you begin with The Victorians and Queen Victoria herself then leading on to the early 20th century including the first world war and on into the late 20th century.
Carrying on down onto the ground floor are the more recent collections from 1990 onwards and the special exhibition which is only accessible via ticket which you have to pay for. When we visited the exhibition was Annie Leibovitz - A photographers life, 1990-2005 although this was due to close on the 1st February 2009.
The gallery is well equipped for facilities there are toilets on the ground floor, lower ground floor and the Top Floor. There are lifts for those with wheelchairs or pushchairs. There is also a baby changing room on the lower ground floor. If you are looking for somewhere to eat there is a café and a restaurant. We didn't visit these so I can't comment on what they are like.
I liked this gallery it's a nice place just to spend some time browsing around. The fact that admission is free means that you don't feel you have to see everything all in one go. We visited here briefly last year and came again this year for a better look around. There are of course plenty of opportunities to leave a donation which is a much better way of doing things as you don't feel you have to get your moneys worth in one go. There are plenty of seats around the place so you can just sit down and look at the paintings. Children might get a little bored after a while but they have tried to make it interesting by having special children's information points and little puzzles and quizzes. Personally I preferred the National Gallery to the Portrait Gallery perhaps because I enjoyed looking at some of the more famous paintings and painters that I had heard of. However it's a nice gallery to have a browse around or if you are really into your art it will be a place that you will quite easily spend a lot of time in.
What made Britain great? It might have something to do with our former empire or the Industrial Revolution, but what made Britain really great was the cast of larger than life characters from the monarchy to scientists, explorers and writers that make up British ands English History. When in central London recently I thought I would celebrate the people that made Britain glorious by visiting the National Portrait Gallery right in the centre of London. It is celebrating its 150th anniversary so I thought I would visit it in this important year.
The National Portrait Gallery is very easy to get to. The nearest tube station is Charring Cross-although Embankment is pretty near as well. It is located just off Trafalgar Square on Saint Martins Place (diagonally opposite the wonderful looking Saint Martins in the Field). Do not do as I did and get the National Portrait Gallery confused with the National Gallery. The National Gallery is the big building that faces Trafalgar Square. I entered the National Gallery first and only twigged when looking at the free map to locate myself that it could not be the National Portrait Gallery as it had Sunflowers by Van Gough in it! I had to ask at the information desk where to find the actual National Portrait Gallery. I am sure I am not the first person and probably will not be the last to make such a mistake.
The National Portrait Gallery is a lot smaller than the National Gallery. The main galleries are on three floors. Navigation is ultra easy as the permanent galleries are arranged in chronological order with portrait grouped thematically within the specific time period.
On entering the building there are free floor plans but I only really used it for finding other facilities such as the toilets. You then take the escalator up to the second floor (there are lifts for disabled people) where you encounter the earliest paintings and work your way down to the contemporary ones.
The first gallery is the Tudor Gallery but there are a couple of earlier portraits of the later Plantaganets such as Edward IV. I preferred the earlier galleries to the later ones, as I am not really a celebrity lover. I think I value Tudor and Stuart portraits more as they are more exclusive than later periods. I particularly enjoyed seeing paintings I had seen in books umpteen times and was familiar with such as Hans Holbeins portrait of Henry VIII and the famous one of Elizabeth I standing on the map. It was nice to see the famous portrait of Robert Burns and the picture of the Bronte sisters with the cracks in it. I am surprised they have not tried to restore it as it looks a bit tatty but I suppose that is how the portrait has always been. As a historian I am very familiar with many historical figures. It was nice to put a face to people who had been previously just names in essays I had written. It was great to see pictures of people such as Cobden and Bright (19th century politicians who supported the free trade movement) and Beatrix Potter (I did my Masters dissertation on Beatrix Potter tourism so I have a love hate relationship with her). I never wanted to see Peter Rabbit after handing my dissertation in) There was also a portrait of my least favourite person in history Mary Wolstonecroft. (Early feminist who wrote the most tedious book I ever read, The Vindication of the Rights of Women and who was also mother to Mary Shelly).
One of my favourite portraits was the one of Alexander Fleming in his laboratory. I also liked the one of Landseer sculpting the Trafalgar Square lions. I found that I went through the more contemporary portraits quicker than say the Tudor ones. I am not sure if I was tired by that point or if they interested me less (familiarly breeds contempt and the portraits began to be less traditional with more photographs and modern art). The highlight for me of the contemporary portraits was the ones of Blur used on their greatest hits.
The gallery is quite traditional in its approach to interpretation. It consists of labels beside the paintings. These contain a short biography of the sitter, a little bit about how it was painted, the technique etc, the artist and the date. I am not a great label reader but some of them were interesting especially the more unusual paintings. I found a label about Elizabethan portraiture interesting, as they would create a stock portrait then just pain over the detail. Like most places large print books are supplied for those that have trouble reading the labels. I often find that unless they are right by the exhibit I do not really bother with them unless I am really interested in a particular exhibit and am really finding the label too difficult to read. Smaller paintings such as the Elizabethan miniatures were displayed in a light box to illuminate them. There are two methods of getting extra information about the paintings that I did not really explore. There is an audio guide which has 300 tracks so you can just key in the number of the painting that you want to know more about. These cost £2.50. If I went again I would consider getting one especially for the paintings that really fascinated me. They also had a bank of computers linked up to databases for further information.
I liked the fact that the National Portrait Gallery has longer opening hours than some galleries. It does not closer until 6 PM and is later still on some evenings. I liked the size of the gallery, as it was big but not enormous. I whizzed round it in about an hour and a half (although to give it a thorough go I would advise another hour). I am not sure it is the type of place I would drag a child round. They probably would get bored. However it would be worth a visit for a specific era in history that tied in with a school project such as the Tudors or the Victorians.
There is a restaurant and a café in the gallery but I did not visit either as it was quite late in the day. I did have a wander through the shop, which had a good selection of books on various historical figures alongside themed gifts such as chocolates with Henry VIIIs six wives and Victorian style masks of historical figures
Like most of the national museums the National Portrait Gallery is free. I am glad I went to the National Portrait Gallery. It was a nice way to spend an hour or so looking at the great and good of English (and from 1603) British history.
Now, I would hate for you to get the idea that I am a philistine - I appreciate a decent painting as much as the next man - but I must confess that given the choice between an afternoon in the pub and a trip to one of the West End's galleries, I tend to go for Guinness rather than Gauguin. Thus it was that, more than two years after moving to London, I had yet to visit the National Portrait Gallery. I'd love to say that I had a sudden desire for self-improvement but, as is so often the case, it was all down to a woman; more specifically, my newly acquired art-student girlfriend. "Accompany you to the NPG this weekend, ma chere? I'd love to..." And do you know what? I loved it. Not even the tail end of a Friday-night hangover could dampen my enthusiasm. OK, the endless portraits of Tudor and Elizabethan minor royals on the top floor didn't exactly set my heart racing - although I did love the anamorphic painting technique, in which an elongated, abstract-looking image is revealed as a perfectly proportioned portrait when you look from an oblique angle to one side of the frame. The real interest, though, is on the lower floors, especially the works from the 1960s onwards. Here you will find everything from video installations (such as a fantastic, constantly changing portrait of the pharmacologist Susan Greenfield) to political cartoon caricatures. Among my favourite works were David Mach's giant collage depicting Richard Branson, made from hundreds of tiny slivers of postcard, which really conveys the energy of this tycoon (love him or hate him), and Julian Opie's famous quartet of portraits of the members of Blur, as used on the cover of their "Best of" compilation. Its amazing how few lines are needed to define a recognisable face (if you can draw, of course!). Also look out for a giant sculpture of a head, carved from wood and then sandblasted. The texture is amazing - with grains of sand still
embedded and sparkling, I was studying it for ages trying to work out if it was made of wood or sandstone (until my girlfriend pointed out the label, the smartarse). Unfortunately I can't remember who it was of or by - sorry! It's not a huge gallery - which is a good thing, as you don't end up with art fatigue. It's just enough for a nice couple of hours of culture before popping out for a pint and a bite of something spicy in the West End. And it's free to get in - what more do you want? Don't leave it as long as I did before checking it out!
For the casual visitor, the two main attractions of the National Portrait Gallery are that (a) it's just round the corner from the National Gallery, and (b) admission to the permanent collection, though not some temporary exhibitions, is free. But if you have the slightest interest in British history, or the famous, infamous or notorious, you will probably find it fascinating. Let me declare an interest; I have adored history ever since I learnt to read, and I could always be kept quiet with a book on Kings and Queens. How do I persuade somebody who doesn't share a passion for 'that sort of thing' of the NPG's merits? If corridors and rooms of dry and dusty old Yorkist, Tudor, Stuart and Hanoverian monarchs come instantly to mind at the mention of the name, that's only a small part of the collection. There are galleries for the American war of independence, the Regency, Victorian arts, music and letters. As an example of 'showing it like it is', you can see the damaged image of the three Bronte sisters by their brother Branwell, who clumsily painted himself out, with no effort having been made to restore it or make good the folding and holes which resulted from years of bad storage in the family home. The 20th century is well represented, whether you're interested in the World Wars, politics or contemporary showbiz. The different treatment of royal family portraits through the decades is striking, from the formal state painting of Edward VII in his uniform (looking much slimmer and taller than he ever was in real life), to the casual one of Diana in everyday wear. Malin's massive portrait of Elton John at his glam-rock glitziest, painted in tempera on gold leaf, ought to be viewed with sunglasses, and Schwarz's lifesize picture of the 70s trade union leaders Joe Gormley, Tom Jackson and Sid Weighell, done in a style redolent of the inter-war Camden Town Group artists on acid, is pretty ey
e-catching. Thomas More, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Richard Branson, David Beckham - they're all here, in one medium or another. At present the Gallery has over a million works - paintings, drawings, sculptures, medallions, photographs, and mixed media representations - and only a very small proportion, around 10,000, can be displayed at any one time. Have a look at the very user-friendly website before you go, or if you've got time (and can find a space), try out the Portrait Explorer in the IT Gallery. Portraiture can be either impossibly old-fashioned or totally funky, cool and vulgar, and you'll find both extremes under one roof.
London is huge and there are loads of museums and galleries in there. National Portrait Gallery is one of those smaller ones, compared with, for instance, British Museum and National Gallery (which is just steps away from the Portrait Gallery). So people tend to miss this one. Frankily, I won't say it's a must-see like British Museum or National Gallery. But if you have plenty of time to kill in London then it's probably worth spending couple hours in it. As the name implies, you can only see portraits in this gallery, and some people can easily get bored by this. However, entrance is free so why not pay it a short visit after you've been to the National Gallery??
The newly revitalised National Portrait gallery is worth a visit. It is, however, just a portrait gallery, and I found it a tad boring. I am no philistine, but I just do not find portraits very interesting. The photo's made no imperession on me (apart from the one of Maggie Thatcher that made me a little queazy). It is a worthwhile half an hour but not a very interesting one - if you're passing pop in, but don't plan your day in the city around it.
The National Portrait Gallery is situated to the side of the National Gallery. If you're in London it's very likely you'd 'do' the National Gallery but not this museum - that would be a shame. It may be a fairly small museum (certainly by London standards) but it's great fun. You can wander around the museum spotting famous people from the past and present. They also have special exhibitions and when I was there I saw one with photographs of famous pepole of the 20th century. This is a great opportunity to see how people have changed over the ages, to spot the famous people you know from history and to find out what some of the slightly less famous people from history looked like! The museum has free entry too, so there's no excuse not to go!
Already one of London's best loved galleries, the portrait is now bigger and more best loved than ever before thanks to the new Ondjaate (no it probably isn't spelt like that) wing, which you reach by travelling up an unfeasibly large escalator. The great thing about the portrait gallery is that you don't have to know a lot (or even like) art in order to get something out of it. As just about very picture is of someone famous it's rather like being in a big historical Hello magazine. Modern tastes are catered for too, and there's currently a wonderful photo of the Sex Pistols on display. A new cafe/restaurant has wonderful views over London. Sevice was so slow when we visited that we had to walk out, but maybe it's improved by now.
The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in St Martin's Place, London, England, which opened to the public in 1856. It houses portraits of historically important and famous British people, selected on the basis of the significance of the sitter. The collection  includes photographs and caricatures as well as paintings, drawings and sculpture. Not all of the portraits are exceptional artistically, although there are self-portraits by William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds and other British artists of note. Some, such as the group portrait of the participants in the Somerset House Conference of 1604, are important historical documents in their own right. Often the curiosity value is greater than the artistic worth of a work, as in the case of the anamorphic portrait of Edward VI, Patrick Branwell Brontë's painting of his sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne, or a sculpture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in medieval costume. Portraits of living figures were allowed from 1969.