The National Gallery: A Short History


Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Frances Lincoln (1 July 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0711230439
ISBN-13: 978-0711230439
Product Dimensions: 2 x 13.3 x 19.8 cm

The National Gallery: A Short History is a behind the scenes look at the enduring tensions through the centuries between the management and the board that have always been a feature of the National Gallery and, indeed, many of our best loved, publicly funded cultural institutions.

From the acquisition in 1826 of Titian’s magnificent Bacchus and Ariadne as one of the earliest paintings in the collection, through the purchase in 1890 of Holbein’s group portrait of The Ambassadors (one of the first paintings to be funded by private donations) to Stubbs’s great Whistlejacket bought in 1997, The National Gallery: A Short History, Charles Saumarez Smith’s perceptive book, tells the story of arguably the most important and most beloved public art collection in the world.

Following the fortunes of the Directors who preceded him, up to and including Neil MacGregor, Director from 1987-2002, Charles Saumarez Smith draws on his own experience in The National Gallery: A Short History to give us important insights into the challenges faced by all the Directors as they managed the art collection from its very modest origins through to its position as a world class institution, with some of the most important, beautiful and inspirational Western European paintings, that welcomes more than five million visitors per year.

“The book is lots more fun than it sounds, since it concerns itself primarily with the almost constant infighting among the great and the good, and is definitive proof that the London art world has always attracted more than its fair share of egotists and bullies.„

The Evening Standard

“Charles Saumarez Smith, former director of the National Gallery, brings a nice detachment to this short history…[He] is particularly good on the architectural history and neatly
summarises each director’s contribution.„


“This 192-page gem.„


“If he were still in office it is unlikely that he would have felt free to land so many punches with such deadly accuracy and evident delight…A wonderfully timely book.„


“This readable short history is an intelligent synopsis of the achievements of successive directors…An ‘insider’s view’, it has a special perspective, enhanced by a stimulating subjectivity.„

Country Life

“Readers will delight in the suavity and poise of this beautifully judged account…It is both authoritative and, best of all, delightful to read.„

British Art Journal

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