A History of Hanging! 200 Years of Display at the National Gallery

Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, National Gallery, London

This event has been postponed

Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square 

A picture gallery, probably 18th century. The walls are filled with paintings while seated viewers look on.
Frederick Mackenzie, The National Gallery when at Mr Angerstein’s House, Pall Mall (exhibited 1834). Victoria and Albert Museum.

This talk will consider the different ways in which different kinds of paintings have been displayed at London’s National Gallery since its foundation in 1824 and what this reveals about taste as well as ideas concerning the purpose of public art galleries. Originally, the small collection of Grand Manner pictures was shown in an aesthetic arrangement in a Georgian London town house in Pall Mall. After the Gallery moved into purpose-built accommodation on Trafalgar Square in 1838, the picture display became very unsystematic largely due to the chronic lack of space, which only worsened as the collection expanded. However, things radically changed after the Gallery was reconstituted in 1855, when it was decided that it should aim to become a survey collection of western European painting from its origins in the thirteenth century, and an annual purchase grant was established. Sir Charles Eastlake, appointed that year as the first Director, not only started to purchase early Italian and Netherlandish paintings, but also began to hang the entire collection by date and school, a system still used today.

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Behind the Scenes at the National Gallery

National Gallery Conservation Studio, and Library and Archive Tour

Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, with Larry Keith, Head of Conservation

Friday 15 May, 5-7pm – subject to confirmation

A conservation studio with paintings on easels and conservators working.
Conservation Studio at the National Gallery, London

This site visit is aimed to introduce some key individuals and episodes in early decades of the National Gallery’s history around its foundation in 1824 and around its reconstitution in 1855. Our tour will start with a visit to the Conservation Studio to meet Larry Keith, Head of Conservation, who will talk about the changing attitudes to picture cleaning and conservation during the nineteenth century. We will then move to the Library where Nicholas Smith, the Archivist, and I will talk through a select group of important historical documents related to the work of the first director Sir Charles Eastlake to professionalise the management of the gallery, including in relation to cataloguing the pictures. The third and final leg of the tour will take place in the main floor galleries where we will look at the very different kinds of paintings that entered the national collection at two key moments in its history: firstly, the foundation collection of John Julius Angerstein which was purchased in 1824 and secondly, Eastlake’s pioneering purchases of early Italian pictures after his appointment as first Director in 1855.

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