The National Gallery: A Short History by Charles Saumarez Smith - review by Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones

Collective Efforts

The National Gallery: A Short History


Frances Lincoln 192pp £14.99

As so often, the British did it differently from their European neighbours. When it came to founding a national collection of great art for the edification and education of the masses at the end of the eighteenth century, most European states based their new galleries on the private collections of their rulers: the Prado in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris and the Belvedere in Vienna were all started in this way.

Here in Britain, the considerable collections amassed over the centuries by British monarchs – notably by those aesthetically aware but otherwise disastrous kings, Charles I and George IV – were only fully opened to the public recently; and our national collection came about, almost by accident, by a

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