[ 2007-02-12 13:08 ]
The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in St Martin's Place, London, which opened to the public in 1856. It houses portraits of historically important and famous British people, selected on the basis of the significance of the sitter. The collection includes photographs and caricatures as well as paintings, drawings and sculpture.
Not all of the portraits are exceptional artistically. Some, such as the group portrait of the participants in the Somerset House Conference of 1604, are important historical documents in their own right. Often the curiosity value is greater than the artistic worth of a work, as in the case of the anamorphic portrait of Edward VI, Patrick Branwell Bront?'s painting of his sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne, or a sculpture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in medieval costume. Portraits of living figures were allowed in 1969.
In addition to its permanent galleries of historical portraits, the National Portrait Gallery exhibits a rapidly changing collection of contemporary work, stages exhibitions of portrait art by individual artists and hosts the annual BP Portrait Prize competition.