22nd March 1824. Paintings for the Nation.
Unlike comparable museums in Europe, the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to be opened in 1838, was not formed by nationalising royal collections but came from private sources.
It was Today in 1824 that Parliament voted to buy 38 painting at a cost of £57k to establish a National Collection to be bought by Lord Liverpool’s Government.
Two years later the painter Sir George Beaumont (Bt) offered his collection to the nation on condition a suitable venue could be found.
This and the Angerstein collection was put on display originally in Angerstein’s former town-house 100, Pall Mall, London, which had been built for Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III.
The acquisition of these paintings came from the heirs of Russian emigre, patron of the arts, John Julius Angerstein, who had made a fortune from slave owning in Granada, also a broker who had developed Lloyds of London, Insurance.
With the subsidence of 100 Pall Mall the collection moved to 105, which author Anthony Trollope described as, ‘dingy and narrow and ill-adapted for housing the treasures’.
Thus when William Wilkins’ new National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, on the site of the old Royal Mews was opened in 1838, it was the third to house the early collections.
The site was chosen as convenient for the poor, foot-passengers from the London’s east-end, and carriage people from the west, the mission was to make it free and accessible to all not for profit.
Despite these noble motives the Gallery had no official acquisition policy being based as it was, on personal taste of Trustees.
In 1871 the Gallery bought 77 paintings from the estate of the late Prime Minister, Robert Peel.
A windfall came when J.M.W. Turner left over 100 watercolours, sketches and other paintings to the Gallery so large they had to be displayed elsewhere until space was acquired.
To enter the National Gallery for the first time, as the Author did in the 1970.s, and not to be moved, as I was, by seeing the enormous Fighting Temeraire, by Turner, and other paintings, must be dull indeed.