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the history of the institution. The National Gallery of England dates from the year 1824, when the Angerstein collection of thirty-eight pictures was purchased. They were exhibited for some years in Mr. Angerstein's house in Pall Mall; for it was not till 1832 that the building in which the collection is now deposited was begun. This building, which was designed expressly for the purpose by William Wilkins, R.A. was opened to the public in 1838.1 At that time, however, the Gallery comprised only six rooms, the remaining space in the building being devoted to the Royal Academy of Arts — whose inscription may still be seen above a disused doorway to the right of the main entrance. In 1860 the first enlargement was made-consisting of one new room. In 1869 the Royal Academy removed to Burlington House, and five more rooms were gained for the National Gallery. In 1876 the so-called “New Wing” was added, erected from a design by E. M. Barry, R.A. In that year the whole collection was for the first time housed under a single roof. The English School had, since its increase in 1847 by the Vernon gift, been exhibited first at Marlborough House (up to 1859), and afterwards at South Kensington. In 1884 a further addition of five rooms was commenced under the superintendence of Mr. J. Taylor, of Her Majesty's Office of Works; these rooms, the present “New Rooms” (I. II. III. V. VI.), with a new staircase and other improvements, were opened to the public in 1887; and the Gallery now consists of twenty-two rooms, besides ample accommodation for the offices of the Director and the convenience of the students.?
i The exterior of the building is not generally considered an architectural success, and the ugliness of the dome is almost proverbial. But it should be remembered that the original design included the erection of suitable pieces of sculpture—such as may be seen in old engravings of the Gallery-on the still vacant pedestals.
? The several extensions of the Gallery are shown in the plan on p. xxi, This growth in the Galleries has, however, barely sufficed to keep pace with the growth of the pictures, which have increased during the last fifty years nearly tenfold. In 1838 the total number of national pictures was still only 150. Ten years ago the number was 926; to-day it is 1250. This result has been due to the combination of private generosity and State aid which is characteristic of our country. The Vernon gift of English pictures in 1847 added over 150 at a stroke. Ten years later Turner's bequest added (besides some 19,000 drawings in various stages of completion) 100 pictures. In 1876 the Wynn Ellis gift of foreign pictures added nearly another hundred. By the terms of his will they were to be kept together for ten years. This period has now elapsed, and their dispersal among the rest of the collection has greatly facilitated the recent re-hanging of the Gallery. Particulars of other bequests may be gathered from the final index; but it should be added that the Parliamentary grants have of late years been supplemented by private bequests of money. Mr. Francis Clarke left £23,104, and Mr. T. D. Lewis £10,000, the interest upon which sums was to be expended in pictures. Mr. R. C. Wheeler left a sum of £2655, the interest on which was to purchase English pictures; and finally Mr. J. L. Walker left £10,000, not to form a fund, but to be spent on "a picture or pictures.” It is interesting to note that this growth of the Gallery by private gift and public expenditure concurrently is strictly in accordance with the manner of its birth. The Gallery came into existence, as we have said, by the purchase of Mr. Angerstein's collection, but one of the factors which decided Lord Liverpool in favour of the purchase was the generous offer of a private citizenSir George Beaumont.
Sir George's gift, as we shall see from a little story attaching to one of his pictures (XIV. 61, p. 358), was not of that which cost him nothing in the giving. The generosity of private donors, which that little story places in so pleasing and even pathetic a light, has been accompanied by public expenditure at once liberal and prudent. The total cost of the collection so far has been about £500,000; at present prices there is little doubt that the pictures so acquired could be sold for several times that sum. It will be seen in the following pages that there have been some bad bargains; but these mostly belong to the period when responsibility was divided, in an undefined way, between the Trustees and the Keeper. The present organisation of the Gallery dates from 1855, when, as the result of several Commissions and Committees, a Treasury Minute was drawn up—appointing a Director to preside over the Gallery, and placing an annual grant of money at his disposal. The curious reader may trace the use of this discretion made by successive Directors in the table of prices given in the final index—a table which would afford material for an instructive history of recent fashions in art. The annual grant has from time to time been supplemented by special grants, of which the most notable were those for the purchase of the Peel collection and of the Blenheim pictures respectively. The Peel collection consisted of seventy-seven pictures and eighteen drawings, and was bought by the nation in 1871. The vote was proposed in the House of Commons on March 20, 1871, by Lord Sherbrooke, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in supporting it Sir W. H. Gregory (one of the trustees of the Gallery) alluded to “the additional interest connected with the collection, for it was the labour of love of one of our greatest English statesmen, and it was gratifying to see that the taste of the amateur was on a par with the sagacity of the minister, for throughout this large collection there could hardly be named more than two or three pictures which were not of the very highest order of merit, a compliment which could be paid to few private galleries.” The price paid for this collection, £70,000, was exceedingly moderate; and even the princely price given for the two Blenheim pictures cannot be regarded commercially as a bad bargain. The price was unprecedented, but only because the sale of so superb a Raphael in the present day was unprecedented.
The result of the expenditure with which successive Parliaments have thus supplemented private gifts has been to raise the National Gallery to a position second to that of no single collection in the world. The number of pictures now on view in Trafalgar Square, exclusive of the watercolours, is about 1050. This number is very much smaller than that of the galleries at Dresden, Madrid, and Paristhe three largest in the world, and somewhat smaller than that of the Galleries at Berlin, Munich, and St. Petersburg. On the other hand no foreign gallery has been so carefully acquired, or so wisely weeded, as ours. An Act was passed in 1856 authorising the sale of unsuitable works, whilst another passed in 1883 sanctioned the thinning of the Gallery in favour of Provincial collections. There are still many serious gaps. In the Italian School we have no picture by Masaccio—the first of the naturalisers in landscape ; none by Palma Vecchio, the greatest of the Bergamese painters; and none by Fra Bartolommeo, famous in history as the friend of Savonarola, and in art as the first to use a lay figure. The specimens of the Spanish School are very few in number; whilst amongst the old masters of our own British School there are gaps too numerous to be mentioned, which we must hope that some future Mr. Vernon will fill up. But on the other hand we can set against these deficiencies many painters who, and even schools which, can nowhere—in one place—be so well studied as in Trafalgar Square. The works of Crivelli—one of the quaintest and most charming of the earlier Venetians —which hang together in Room VIII., the works of the Brescian School, including those of its splendid portrait painters—Moroni and Il Moretto; the series of Raphaels, showing each of his successive styles; and in the English School the unrivalled and incomparable collection of Turners : are amongst the unique glories of the National collection. And not only have we many things peculiar to ourselves, but historically the collection is remarkably complete. This is a point which successive Directors have, on the recommendation of Royal Commissions, kept steadily in view; and which has been very clearly shown since the admirable re-arrangement of the Gallery after the opening of the new rooms in 1887.
1 or the 200 pictures thus unaccounted for (the total number belonging to the Gallery being 1250), some are on loan to provincial institutions (see Appendix II.), and others are hung in rooms not at present accessible to the public (see Addenda, p. 654).