The National Portrait Gallery was founded in the year 1856 over 156 years ago, it houses a collection of portraits of historical significance this amazing collection is about 195,000 portraits and is seen by over 2 million visitors every year making it rank 8th nationally and is the first ever portrait gallery in the whole world when it first opened. However, in that respect are three outstanding people who are mostly responsible for the creation of the National Portrait Gallery and are commemorated with busts at the main entrance In the center is “Philip Henry Stanhope 5th Earl Stanhope”, “Thomas Babington Macaulay,1st Baron Macaulay” to Stanhope’s left and to Stanhopes right is “Thomas Carlyle.” In 1846 The first proposal of the National Portrait Gallery at London was the idea of Stanhope who was the Member of the Parliament at that time. The gallery was approved in the year 1856 after it was disapproved twice initially. The House of Lords along with the approval of Queen Victoria and the House of Commons has set aside £2000 for the establishment of the gallery. With Stanhope and Macaulay as the founder trustees included Lord Ellesmere and Benjamin Disraeli. Lord Ellesmere donated the Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare to the National Portrait Gallery on its opening and is known as the gallery’s first portrait. Later after the passing away of Lord Ellesmere Carlyle succeeded as trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in the Year 1856. Subsequently in the year 1896 the gallery moved to its current location on the site of St. Martin’s Place, at Trafalgar Square adjoining the National Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is expanded two times since 1896 and also hold three outposts at the Montacute House, Bodelwyddan Castle and Beningbrough Hall. The National Portrait Gallery is sponsored by the Department for culture, sport and media and is a non-departmental public body.

The Collection

Busts of Prominent People

Additional busts added to the three prominent busts of Macaulay, Stanhope and Carlyle that are placed over the ingress of the gallery. The additions are decorated with stone block busts of renowned portrait artists, historians and biological writers in the year 1896. These magnificent busts where a creation of Frederick R. Thomas that depicts Thomas Fuller, James Granger, Edmund Lodge, The Earl of Clarendon, William Faithorne, Horace Walpole, Sir Anthony van Dyck, Louis Francois Roubiliac, Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Peter Lely, William Hogarth, Sir Francis Chantrey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir God Kneller.


The Portraits

The arrangement of the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery is placed on the basis of the person in the painting rather than the artist. These portraits are of historical significance of famous British people, they include painting, caricatures, photographs, drawings and also sculptures. The very first portrait was donated to the gallery at the time of the opening by Lord Ellesmere in the year 1856, the painting was of William Shakespeare and the portrait is recognized with the title of Chandos portrait. Although all the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery of London are not exponentially artistic in nature, they are self portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth and other famous British artists of that time. Certain times the curiosity value is greater compared to its artistic work such as the painting of Patrick Branwell Bronte’s work depicting of his sisters Charlotte, the anamorphic portrait of Edward VI painted by William Scrots, Emily and Anne or even the sculpture of Queen Victoria and Albert in their medieval costumes. The National Gallery’s hold additional. By the year 1969 portraits of living people were allowed to be displayed and adding to that the permanent galleries of historical significance the gallery exhibits a fast paced changing selections of contemporary work, the gallery also set up exhibitions of portrait art that are created by individual artists and also the gallery is the host for the annual BP Portrait Prize competitions. The National Portrait Gallery includes contemporary portraits of Dean Freeman’s David Beckham and Victoria Beckham, Lewis Carroll’s photograph of Alice Liddell, Queen Elizabeth II by Rankin Stephen Finer’s David Bowie, Peter Edwards’s Kazuo Ishiguro, the self portraits of Eduardo Paolozzi and Sarah Lucas and many more exclusive paintings are found in the gallery.


Admission fee:
Free except for exhibitions

Opening Timings

10:00 – 18:00



St Martin’s Pl,



United Kingdom

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