The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square (map) in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.
Its collection belongs to the government on behalf of the British public, and entry to the main collection is free of charge. The collection is smaller than many European national galleries, but encyclopaedic in scope; most major developments in Western painting “from Giotto to Cézanne”.
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It holds European paintings by masters like Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, J. M. W. Turner, and Vincent van Gogh. Book your ticket in advance to guarantee entry. Free exhibitions are included with Gallery entry.
The late 18th century saw the nationalisation of royal or princely art collections across mainland Europe. The Bavarian royal collection (now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, map) opened to the public in 1779, that of the Medici in Florence around 1789 (as the Uffizi Gallery, map), and the Museum Français at the Louvre was formed out of the former French royal collection in 1793.
Great Britain, however, did not follow other European countries, and the British Royal Collection still remains in the sovereign’s possession.
Following the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square, the Gallery is currently engaged in a masterplan to convert the vacated office space on the ground floor into public space. The plan will also fill in disused courtyards and make use of land acquired from the adjoining National Portrait Gallery in St Martin’s Place, which it gave to the National Gallery in exchange for land for its 2000 extension.