1856 - ?

National Portrait Gallery

Philip Henry Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhope, in 1846 as a Member of Parliament, first proposed the idea of a National Portrait Gallery but it was not until his third attempt, in 1856 that the House of Lords, accepted the proposal and with Queen Victoria's approval, the House of Commons set aside a sum of £2,000 to establish the gallery. The National Portrait Gallery was founded with the aim of collecting portraits of ‘the most eminent persons in British history’. The original Trustees agreed ‘to look at the celebrity of the person represented rather than the merit of the artist’ but also took the view that achievement would sometimes be tempered by human fallibility accepting that ‘great faults and errors’ should not exclude individuals from inclusion. For the first 40 years, the gallery was housed in various locations in London including 29 Great George Street, Westminster and in 1869, the collection moved to Exhibition Road but ollowing a fire in those buildings, the collection was moved in 1885 to the Bethnal Green Museum. Following calls for a new location to be found, the government accepted an offer of funds from the philanthropist William Henry Alexander who donated £60,000 followed by another £20,000, and chose the architect, Ewan Christian. The government provided the new site on St Martin's Place, adjacent to the National Gallery, and £16,000. The gallery opened at its new location on 4 April 1896 with the first extension, in 1933, being funded by Lord Duveen An important development has been the increasing importance given to art and art history, leading to the Gallery’s role as place to learn about the art of portraiture, promoting an appreciation of the art form, championing artists from all over the world and encouraging creativity. Their collection of over 215,000 portraits and world-class exhibition programme now showcase the work of some of the world’s greatest artists as well as the best in contemporary art.

Works by This Artist