England ranks alongside Italy and France among the world’s most popular spots to experience the best in art. An abundance of galleries and museums showcase traditional and contemporary works to suit a variety of personal tastes and styles. One of the most renowned (and most visited) is The National Gallery, located on Trafalgar Square in central London.
If you’ve never visited this special space, the first sight of its classical appearance will give a hint of the splendours inside. Built in 1824, the gallery houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to the 1900s and features iconic pieces from artists such as da Vinci, Picasso, and van Eyck. The main collection is free of charge for visitors, while other exclusive exhibitions are temporarily available to ticket holders.
If you’re planning a trip, be sure to stop by these must-see pieces in the main collection. And if you’re prepared to spend some money to visit the excellent temporary exhibitions, read on to find out what’s on show in the months ahead.
Top 5 Pieces in the National Gallery, Main Collection
1. The Madonna of the Rocks
About 1491/2-9 and 1506-8, Leonardo da Vinci
This beautiful piece is one of da Vinci’s greatest art works and can be found in room 20. It’s composed of oil paint on poplar and was painted by da Vinci around 1491, with the finishing touches made during 1508. Its intricate detail gives this painting a significant presence that is even more astounding in person.
Lovers of Dan Brown’s global bestseller The Da Vinci Code will also have fun deconstructing its hidden messages – the author claimed the painting was a secret allegory of Da Vinci’s contempt for the Catholic Church.
1888, Vincent van Gogh
One of Van Gogh’s most popular works, this is one of four paintings of sunflowers he painted during August and September 1888. Thick textural paint and brushstrokes give a surreal feel and three-dimensional appearance to the charming sunflowers. This is one of Van Gogh’s most popular paintings and a must-see for visitors to The National Gallery.
3. Portrait of Greta Moll
1908, Henri Matisse
Matisse was known for his bold use of colour and techniques and the character and personality inherent in his work. The Portrait of Greta Moll is an exemplar of his unique and daring style, with its heightened perspective of shape and figure and the curvaceous quality of the female form, while still respecting realistic representation. Its subject is Margareta Moll, who was born in 1884 and was herself an artist and a pupil of Matisse.
4. Portrait of Hermine Gallia
1904, Gustav Klimt
There’s something mesmerising about Klimt’s work – perhaps it’s the delicate application of vivid colour and tone, or the female figures which make up much of his artistic portfolio. This painting is of Hermine Gallia, née Hamburger, who wears a dress designed by Klimt.
5. Self Portrait at the Age of 34
Rembrandt was a Dutch painter, printmaker and draughtsman, now considered one of the greatest in the history of art. He was inspired by the Italian masters and Netherlandish artists who studied in Italy, and adopted their techniques and styles.
Although his paintings ranged in subject matter, Rembrandt took a great interest in portraits – this self-portrait was one of around a hundred he produced, and was painted at the height of his career.