The National Portrait Gallery

Address: St Martin’s Place, London.

Opening hours: The Gallery is open every day of the year except 24-26 December. It is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and open to 9:00 pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Contact: Telephone +44 20 7306 0055

View Larger Map

If you want to find stories from among the faces of the historical people of Britain then the National Portrait Gallery is the place to go to. At least, it’s good to spend hours just trying to figure out the stories behind those faces. There are several other national portrait galleries in the world. What makes the one in London special is that it was the first of its kind, having opened back in 1856. This should not come as surprising as British history is rich with compelling characters that you would want to get to know more about.

Portrait galleries are unique in the sense that the subject or the painting’s sitter is more important than the artist. The pieces in the collection are chosen based on the historical value of each of the figures. So, when you are walking around in the gallery, you know that you are in the presence of great people, or at least people who were once great.

Throughout its history, London’s National Portrait Gallery had experienced two expansions and had spawned three regional outposts. These outposts are found in Montacute House, Bodelwyddan Castle and Beningbrough Hall. The gallery is public and is sponsored by none other than the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

With about 10,000 portraits in the collection, the National Portrait Gallery certainly deserves a national museum status. It offers a glimpse or maybe even the opportunity to carefully inspect the faces that had made significant changes in the history of Britain. Wouldn’t you want to know the people who had made important strides in history? The famous ones could offer sources of inspiration for p eople who are also wishing to be known in their own ways. The scandalous and nefarious characters may also offer entertainment through titillation.

Before you enter the museum, you will be met with the busts of its three founders. After all, the faces of the people who had come up with the idea to establish a museum of faces should also be revealed. In the midst of the trio is the bust of 5th Earl Stanhope, Philip Henry Stanhope, flanked on either side by the busts of 1st Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle. The front of two of the original museum buildings are also graced by other busts – of historians, biographers and portrait artists. This serves as a reminder of the people behind the portraits that made the gallery possible.