On the north side of Trafalgar Square, famous for its monument to Admiral Nelson ('Nelson's Column'), its fountains and its hordes of pigeons, there stands a long, low building in classic style. This is the National Gallery, which contains Britain's best-known collection of pictures. The collection was begun in 1824, with the purchase of thirty-eight pictures that included Hogarth's satirical "Marriage a la Mode' series, and Titian's 'Venus and Adonis'.
The National Gallery is rich in paintings by Italian masters such as Raphael, Correggio, and Veronese, and it contains pictures representative of all European schools of art such as works by Rembrandt, Rubens. Van Dyck, Murillo, El Greco, and nineteenth century French masters. Many visitors are especially attracted to pictures by Velasquez and Leonardo da Vinci.
On sunny days, students and other young people are often to be seen having a sandwich lunch on the portico of the Gallery, overlooking Trafalgar Square. Admission to the Gallery is free, as is the case with other British national galleries and museums, which are maintained by money voted by Parliament. Bequests of pictures have been made to the galleries, at times on a generous scale, by private individuals.
Just behind the National Gallery stands the National Portrait Gallery, in which the visitor can see portraits of British monarchs since the reign of Richard II (1377-1399), and of historical celebrities such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Cromwell. Many of the pictures are by well-known artists.
The National Gallery of British Art, better known as the Tate Gallery, was given to the nation by a rich sugar merchant, Sir Henry Tate, who had a taste for the fine arts. It overlooks the Thames, not far from the Houses of Parliament. English artists are naturally well represented here, and the Tate also has a range of modern works, including some sculptures, by foreign artists. This, of all the London galleries, is the young people's gallery. It has been stated that three-quarters of its visitors are under twenty-five. The Wallace Collection at Hertford House was formed by Lord Hertford and his half-brother, Sir Richard Wallace, who inherited the collection, which was given to the nation in 1897 by Sir Richard Wallace, who inherited the collection, which was given to the nation in 1897 by Sir Richard's widow. There is here a very fine display of weapons and armour, of pottery, miniatures and sculpture. The first floor of the building contains an admirable assortment of Boucher's pictures, besides excellent examples of the work of Fragonard, to mention only two artists.