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National Gallery, London, England

In England, as every more or less stubborn student knows, the oldest constitutional monarchy. Therefore, it is customary to think that there, especially in former times, nothing was done without the knowledge of kings and queens. And, by the way, in the promotion of art to the masses, the British rulers greatly lost to everyone else.

In Europe, almost all famous museums were created at the highest initiative of the crowned persons and on the basis of their own collections: the Louvre, Prado, Uffizi Gallery. First for the chosen public, then for everyone. And in England, the decision to create the National Gallery in London was made by Parliament in April 1824.

It was allocated (although not without pressure from King George IV) £ 57,000 to purchase a collection of paintings from the heirs of banker John Julius Angerstein. Incidentally, he was born in St. Petersburg in 1735 into a German family who settled in Russia. He moved to England in about 1749. He got rich there, made close friends with prominent people (including King George III and Admiral G. Nelson), made friends with many English artists, and put together a magnificent collection of paintings by old masters. The canvases purchased by the state were first stored in his house on Pall Mall, and even then they were available to visitors.

National Gallery of London at night
Of course, the building of a private house, even if it was a very wealthy owner, could not be compared with the royal palaces, which housed art galleries in Europe. In addition, several serious collectors announced that they were ready to donate their collections to the new museum, but only if a suitable building was built for the gallery. So, in 1831, the parliament decided to build the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. It was not bad that they had to build on the site of the king’s former stable: the architect William Wilkins used many of the advantages of this building and even kept eight columns of the old stable to decorate the new building of the National Gallery with them. Another famous gallery – Dresden – also housed in the rebuilt stables.

In 1836, the first two-volume catalog of all 114 paintings stored at that time in the Gallery was published, with a detailed description of each. The first director of the museum was the artist, art connoisseur Charles Eastlake, an outstanding personality in the artistic life of Victorian England. Every year, together with his assistants, he went to the European continent, traveled around ancient palaces, churches and monasteries, visited famous collectors, looking for unsurpassed canvases. Eastlake remained the director of the National Gallery for the rest of his life. 3a 10 years of his leadership, she replenished 139 masterpieces of old masters, such as paintings by Ucccello “The Battle of San Romano” and Giovanni Bellini “Madonna Meadow”.

Charles Eastlake – First Director of the London National Gallery
The museum’s funds also expanded due to the gifts of wealthy patrons. Over time, the room became cramped for an expanding collection. A series of reconstructions and extensions of the building followed: in 1870, 1887, 1911, in the late 1920s – early 1930s. In 1991, with the donations of the owner of the Sainesbury supermarket chain, the famous collector Simon Sainesbury, and his brothers, a wing called the Sainsbury Wing was built.

Sainesbury Wing
The initial architectural project was severely criticized: Prince Charles called it “a monstrous furuncle on the face of a lover” (princes generally tend to express themselves figuratively). The project was rejected. To create a new version, they invited a prominent architect Robert Venturi, who had to take into account the criticism. His project was considered commonplace.

However, the grand opening ceremony of this wing was held personally by Queen Elizabeth II. On this occasion, the exhibition “Pictures of the Queen” was organized, which presented 100 paintings from the royal collection, the largest private collection of paintings in the world: the masterpieces of Holbein, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Dyck and many others (this is the contribution of the royal family to the development arts).

Sainesbury’s wing exhibited early works (1260–1510): Pierrot de Francesca (Baptism), Botticelli (Venus and Mars), as well as Masaccio, Fra Filippo Lippi, Mantegna, Rogier van der Weyden.

In the north wing are paintings of the period 1510-1600. Here are collected canvases of such masters as Parmigianino, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Holbein the Younger, Jerome Bosch, Peter Bruegel the Elder.

In the western wing is a 17th-century painting: works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Rubens, Murillo, Velazquez, Turner. In the eastern wing are paintings of 1700-1920: Canaletto, Watteau, Reynolds, Constable, Gericault, Delacroix, Ingres, Manet, Renoir, Russo and Seurat.

Hall of British Painting at the National Gallery of London
Naturally, the Gallery presents the works of the most captivating English artist Thomas Gainsborough, who masterfully painted landscapes and portraits.

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