National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery, London
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The National Portrait Gallery, founded in 1856, is home to the largest collection of portraits in the world, with works dating from the Middle Ages to the present day.

With over 1,000 portraits on display visitors can come face to face with the people who have shaped British history and culture, from Elizabeth I and Charles Dickens to The Beatles and David Beckham. Artists featured range from Holbein to Hockney, and the Collection includes work across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and video.

Venue Type:

Gallery

Opening hours

Daily 10.00-18.00
Gallery closure commences at 17.50
Thursday & Friday until 21.00
Gallery closure commences at 20.50

Closed: 24-26 December

Admission charges

Admission to the Gallery is FREE
An admission fee is charged for some exhibitions

Discounts

  • Museums Association

Additional info

Evening Openings

The Gallery is open on Thursday and Friday evenings until 21.00. In addition to being able to view the Collection and exhibitions, special lectures (in English only) are held on Thursday evenings and free music events on Friday evenings.

The Collection is displayed chronologically, beginning with the earliest Tudor portraits on the top floor, the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, through to the Victorians and early 20th century on the first floor and finishing with the most contemporary part of the collection on the ground floor.

Collection details

Archives, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Personalities, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • In addition to the Main Collection, a programme of special temporary exhibitions and displays runs throughout the year.
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

Conscientious Objectors of the First World War

  • 21 June 2015 — 5 February 2017 *on now

This display marks one hundred years since the introduction of conscription by Herbert Asquith's government, in March 1916. As huge losses on the Western Front left the British army in need of more men, the Military Service Act required all unmarried men between eighteen and forty-one to defend their country. Those who refused to fight were called conscientious objectors (COs). Objecting on moral or religious grounds led to non-combatant roles in civilian work of national importance: labouring on farms or in aid posts. Some volunteered to drive field ambulances, but failure to serve in any capacity meant imprisonment. COs were required to argue their case for exemption before tribunals, which were generally unsympathetic and resulted in very few men being given exemption. During the Great War some 16,000 men were officially recorded as COs in Britain. Deprived of their right to vote, they were often abused as cowards and traitors. Among their ranks were numerous artists, writers and political activists.

The display will draw particular attention to one of the photographic albums of the society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell, a keen amateur photographer and patron of the arts. At the outbreak of the First World War, Ottoline and her husband the politician Phillip Morrell joined forces with leading political figures to establish the anti-war Union of Democratic Control. In the following years they made their Oxfordshire home, Garsington Manor, a refuge for COs among their circle, providing employment on the estate farm, while continuing to entertain a range of visitors representative of different perspectives on the war.

The poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) enlisted in the Sussex Yeomanry (1914) and was commissioned into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers the following year, winning a Military Cross in 1916. Whilst convalescing at Somerville College in Oxford, Sassoon visited Garsington for the first time and made contact with the group of pacifists led by Bertrand Russell. He returned to France in 1917 but was wounded and sent back to England where he wrote ‘Declaration Against The War’, a public protest about the horrors he had witnessed.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2016/conscientious-objectors-of-the-first-world-war.php

Framing the Face: Collars and Ruffs

  • 19 February — 31 December 2016 *on now

Clothing in Britain has often seen fantastical extravagance and distortion. This small display of paintings and miniatures explores the collars and ruffs that were such a striking feature of sixteenth and seventeenth-century dress. Their design and scale changed continually over the period, with each decade heralding a new fashion that allowed sitters to demonstrate their wealth and style. From the clean folds of starched linen to the intricate patterns of French and Italian lace, collars and ruffs offered men and women the perfect means with which to frame their faces for the world.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2016/framing-the-face-collars-and-ruffs.php

Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862 - 1948

  • 18 May — 11 December 2016 *on now

Black Chronicles showcases over forty photographs that present a unique snapshot of black lives and experiences in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. Developed in collaboration with Autograph ABP, this intervention in three gallery spaces includes some of the earliest photographs in the Gallery’s Collection alongside recently rediscovered photographs from the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images.

These portraits of individuals of African and Asian heritage bear witness to Britain’s imperial history of empire and expansion. They highlight an important and complex black presence in Britain before 1948, a watershed moment when the Empire Windrush brought the first large group of Caribbean immigrants to Britain. Research is ongoing and new information emerges continuously.

This display is part of Autograph ABP’s The Missing Chapter, an ongoing archive research programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Autograph ABP is a London-based arts charity that works internationally in photography and film, race, representation, cultural identity and human rights.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/blackchronicles/display.php

Picasso Portraits

  • 6 October 2016 — 5 February 2017 *on now

Picasso’s portraits epitomise the astonishing variety and innovation of his art. This major exhibition of over eighty works focuses on the artist’s portrayal of family, friends and lovers and reveals his creative processes as he moved freely between drawing from life, humorous caricature and expressive painting from memory.

On display will be portraits from all periods of Picasso’s career and in all media, from the realist paintings of his boyhood to his later ultra-spontaneous canvases. The works on show will range from celebrated masterpieces loaned by international institutions to works in private collections being shown in the United Kingdom for the first time.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Admission

Tickets with donation Full price £19 / Concessions £17.50
Tickets without donation Full price £17 / Concessions £15.50
Free for Members and Patrons

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/picasso-portraits/exhibition.php

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016

  • 17 November 2016 — 26 February 2017 *on now

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016 is the leading international competition, open to all, which celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography from around the world.

Showcasing talented young photographers, gifted amateurs and established professionals, the competition features a diverse range of images and tells the often fascinating stories behind the creation of the works, from formal commissioned portraits to more spontaneous and intimate moments capturing friends and family.

The selected images, many of which will be on display for the first time, explore both traditional and contemporary approaches to the photographic portrait whilst capturing a range of characters, moods and locations. The exhibition of fifty-seven works features all of the prestigious prize winners including the winner of the £15,000 first prize.

Admission

Including donation £6
Concessions including donation £5
Senior (aged 60 and over), students, children 12–18 years, registered unemployed, disabled people (with free entry for one carer). Proof of age or status required.

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2016/exhibition.php

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask

  • 9 March — 29 May 2017

This exhibition brings together for the first time the work of French Surrealist artist Claude Cahun and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing.

Although they were born almost seventy years apart and came from different backgrounds, remarkable parallels can be drawn between the two artists. Both of them share a fascination with the self-portrait and use the self-image, through the medium of photography, to explore themes around identity and gender, which is often played out through masquerade and performance.

Admission

Full price £12 (Concessions £10.50)

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/2016/gillian-wearing-and-claude-cahun-behind-the-mask-another-mask.php

Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends

  • 23 March — 18 June 2017

This is the first exhibition of portraits by Howard Hodgkin (b.1932), one of Britain’s leading artists.

Hodgkin’s paintings are characterised by rich colour, complex illusionistic space and sensuous brushwork. By emphasising these pictorial elements, his work frequently appears entirely abstract. However, over the course of 65 years, a principal concern of Hodgkin’s art has been to evoke a human presence.

The role of memory, the expression of emotion, and the exploration of relationships between people and places are all preoccupations. The exhibition explores Hodgkin’s development of a personal visual language of portraiture, which challenges traditional forms of representation.

Admission

Tickets with donation: Full price £12 (Concessions £10.50)

Website

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/2016/howard-hodgkin-absent-friends.php

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

National Portrait Gallery Webquests

http://www.npg.org.uk/webquests/

Webquests are online activities for children, using the collections of nine national museums and galleries.

Family Art Events

http://www.npg.org.uk/learning/families.php

On the 3rd Saturday of every month, explore portraits from the National Portrait Gallery's collection, then take part in an art activity. Workshops are at 11.30 and 14.30 and last approximately 90 minutes.

How to obtain

Pick up a free ticket to attend the sessions, available one hour before it starts from the Information Desk in the Ondaatje Wing Main Hall. Spaces are allocated first come, first served and children must be accompanied by an adult.

Storytelling for Families

http://www.npg.org.uk/learning/families.php

Third Saturday of every month, join our storytellers for monthly drop-in storytelling sessions in the Gallery, inspired by the Collection. Suitable for children aged 3+ and their carers.

How to obtain

No ticket required. Meet in the Ondaatje Wing Main Hall. These sessions are free and will last about 30 minutes.

The Sunday Sessions

http://www.npg.org.uk/learning/young.php

The Sunday Sessions are part of the Young People's Programme for 14-21 year olds. All sessions are free and explore aspects of portraiture in exciting and innovative ways, drawing inspiration from the collection or temporary exhibitions.

How to obtain

For more information email youthbookings@npg.org.uk or call 020 7312 2483.

Youth Forum

http://www.npg.org.uk/learning/young.php

Youth Forum is part of The National Portrait Gallery's Young People's Programme for 14-21 year olds. All sessions are free and explore aspects of portraiture in exciting and innovative ways, drawing inspiration from the collection and temporary exhibitions. Youth Forum meets on a Thursday evening once a month.

How to obtain

For more information or to join Youth Forum, contact Rachel Moss, Young People's Programme Manager on rmoss@npg.org.uk.

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Place
London
Greater London
WC2H 0HE
England

Website

www.npg.org.uk

E-mail

dsaywell@npg.org.uk

Telephone

Information

020 7306 0055

020 7306 0055

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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