The National Gallery Collection contains over 2,300 works, including many famous works, such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
All major traditions of Western European painting are represented from the artists of late medieval and Renaissance Italy to the French Impressionists.
Duccio, Uccello, van Eyck, Lippi, Mantegna, Botticelli, Dürer, Memling, Bellini
Most surviving late medieval pictures are religious, made for altars in churches or for private devotion. Many have exquisitely decorated gold-leaf backgrounds.
In the 15th century, portraits and scenes from ancient history and mythology increased in importance. Realism also affected the treatment of sacred subjects.
Figures were often placed in convincing architectural and landscape settings. Technical advances, such as oil paint, allowed greater subtlety in depicting facial expression and surface textures.
Leonardo, Cranach, Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein, Bruegel, Bronzino, Titian, Veronese
The leading artists of this period achieved a fame that has never diminished. Especially in Italy, Renaissance painters sought to rival and surpass the artists of ancient Greece and Rome.
Portraitists were highly prized and pictures of ancient history and mythology became almost as important as Christian subjects. Paintings were appreciated for their artistry as much as for their subject matter, and often placed in specially created galleries.
Caravaggio, Rubens, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velázquez, Claude, Rembrandt, Cuyp, Vermeer
While some artists of this period looked to the art of the past for inspiration, they always imparted their own style, from the flamboyant to the austere. Religious subjects were treated in novel ways to engage the emotions of the viewer.
In the Netherlands, specialist painters of still lifes, landscapes and scenes of everyday life – from elegant social gatherings to lively scenes in taverns – enjoyed great popularity.
Canaletto, Goya, Turner, Constable, Ingres, Degas, Cézanne, Monet, Van Gogh
Although the production of grand paintings for churches and palaces continued, it became more common for artists to paint smaller works that were exhibited and sold through art dealers and public exhibitions.
In the 19th century, art movements (loose associations of artists working in a similar style) emerged, as did the idea of the independent artist who rebelled against the official art establishment.
The National Gallery, located at the heart of Trafalgar Square, is one of England's most notable museums of western art. The museum is home to a collection of over 2,300 paintings that hail from the mid-13th century to the early 20th century. You can view the work of many famous artists from this time span in this museum, including some of the giants of the Renaissance likeDa Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, as well as some of the most famous impressionist artists like VanGogh, Monet, and Cézanne. The museum itself is designed in a grand manner and both the exterior and the interiors of the museum match the beauty of the paintings hanging on the walls. The museum is designed in a way that is easy to navigate, with the paintings being separated by country of origin, specific artists (such as Van Gogh and Cézanne), or by painting style such as impressionist or Dutch art.Sunflowers, Van Gogh, National Gallery, London
Upon entering the museum you will be greeted by a painting from the Queen's own collection, Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna. The oil painting, by the English artist Frederic Leighton, is a prime example of how painters can use composition and symmetry to create a beautiful piece of art. Notice how all the people are framed in the piece and centered around the man in white. Also worth noting is the dome ceiling that you stand under when you enter the building; this in combination with the staircases that move out in four different directions create a regal mood that is fitting for the NationalGallery. I recommend heading to room 45 first to see the museum's collection of paintings by Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Rousseau. Cézanne, whose work was said to bridge the gap between late 18th century impressionism and early 19thcentury cubism, has a number of paintings in this room that you should see. These include two different self-portraits (which show him with varying beard lengths), one of his still life paintings (Still Life With Water Jug), and of course his most famous work which dominates the center of his wall, Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses). The painting is one of a series of works by Cézanne which feature abstract nude women bathing against a background. This version is perhaps his most abstract as the background against which the women are bathing cannot even be distinguished. The Van Gogh wall is always crowded, and rightly so, as you will be able to see some of his works like Sunflowers, Van Gogh's Chair, and A Wheatfield, With Cypresses. A Wheatfield is perhaps my favorite of the Van Gogh paintings here, as it really reflects his ability to portray a landscape in a way that is entirely unrealistic while at the same time retaining a sense of humanity and beauty that only he could imagine. Interestingly enough, it was painted near the end of his life when he was a patient at the Saint-Rémy mental asylum near Arles, France. After you check out this room, you should head over to nearby room 43 where you can see some more impressionist art, including some famous works by Manet and Monet.
This room illustrates the difference in art style between the two French impressionist painters. Whereas Manet's paintings often feature human subjects, Monet's works here instead depict beautiful landscapes and images from nature. For Manet fans, you should see The Execution of Maximilian and Corner of a Café-Concert, while Monet fans can see a number of his masterpieces, including Snowat Argenteuil and The Water-Lily Pond. Both paintings are a part of a collection of works by Monet depicting the same subject. The former, is the largest of his paintings which show his home commune of Argenteuil, France under a blanket of snow, while the latter is one of 250 paintings by Monet that depicted his flower garden and dominated the end part of his artistic output. There are of course many other fine paintings to see in this room, including a couple pieces by the master Pierre-Auguste Renoir!
There is so much beautiful art in this museum that in order to fully appreciate it you would have to make multiple trips here. In every room there is a masterpiece by a famous artist, and you are bound to find multiple paintings that will catch your eye and hold your gaze. For those who can't afford to spend the whole day here, I would recommend that you also check out the museum's small collection of works by Michelangelo and Da Vinci, including The Entombment andThe Virgin of the Rocks. In addition, the museum houses an excellent and in-depth gallery of works by Rembrandt and other famous Dutch painters that spans multiple rooms. However, for those with a keen interest in art this is a museum that you should definitely plan on spending the whole day getting lost in.
-By Phillip Storm, Arts Correspondent, VisitMuseums.com
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