Thursday 20th November saw the National Gallery in London welcome patrons, trustees to an exclusive evening viewing of paintings including a new acquisition and Monet paintings, followed by dinner. The evening was held in recognition and appreciation of their longstanding and significant support for the institution and its work.
Among those attending were Nicholas Penny, Gallery Director, Mark Getty, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and longstanding patron Hollywood executive producer Rebecca Wang, who is passionate about all art forms. She said “it is a privilege and pleasure to be patron to such a historic gallery which has such a breath-taking public collection of works and which does so very much to make those works accessible and enjoyable for all.”
The National Gallery is also the first public collection of art in the United Kingdom and opens free of charge to the public on 361 days of the year. As a non-departmental body in the government’s Culture Media and Sport department the gallery is an exempt charity. Private funding and donations have enabled major purchases and renovation or new work such as the recent west Sainsbury Wing extension while new significant acquisitions have been achieved via the help of major public appeals.
It came into existence in 1824, after ten paintings were gifted to the nation on the condition that the government also acquired a private collection of 38 works for this end, and find suitable exhibiting space. This was done and the 48 paintings were first shown in a town house in Pall Mall.
Work on the present building in Trafalgar Square began in 1832 and the central London location fufilled the gallery’s commitment to be accessible to all social classes. Today with Trafalgar Square a top tourist destination, the gallery is continually busy, both with visitors who chance upon it while in the square and with those for whom it is a place of pilgrimage. After the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery is the fourth most visited museum in the world.
The first works in the collection were mainly Renaissance, but numerous acquisitions and bequests have vastly extended its range. Today art lovers may see paintings from a collection of some 3,200 works which range from the 13th century to 1900. Among the exceptional and internationally known and loved paintings on view are Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin on the Rocks, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, Monet’s Water Lily Pond and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Visitors will also find works by Durer, El Greco, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Velazquez and many others.
As its collection of art has expanded, so has the gallery’s educational reach. There are talks, courses, workshops, school visits, teachers’ resources, access and outreach work, associate tenure schemes for contemporary artists, and a daily rolling programme of events. At any time groups of all ages may be seen in gallery rooms listening to and enjoying presentations on the artwork from on-site specialists.
All of which more than justifies the gratitude shown by Thursdays special event to those with the vision to keep the Gallery’s original aims strongly in motion.