Prior to Roy Strong’s appointment as Director in 1967, he worked as Assistant Keeper at the Gallery, and was the driving force behind the changes in exhibition tradition. His book entitled Gloriana: Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, published in 1963, was one of the first to consider the history of a specific series of portraits and how the sitter’s image had been developed and manipulated over time. This came out simultaneously with Strong’s predecessor David Piper’s work Catalogue of the Seventeenth Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery which discussed the interpretation of pictures rather than, as previously seen, simply listed biographies of sitters. Where Piper had been enthusiastic yet tentative about change, Strong was determined to bring the Gallery into the spirit of the late ‘60s and began to implement his ideas immediately.
During his time as Director, Sir Roy Strong created a Gallery shop, a PR and an education department and doubled visitor attendance. His aim was to attract visits from the general public, rather than the same tight demographic. He was the youngest Director in the history of the Gallery at age 32, and had celebrity like status, a controversial yet press boosting phenomenon. Above all his respect for and dedication to the Gallery can still be seen in the way things are run today.
Strong left the gallery in 1973, joining the Victoria and Albert Museum as, yet again, their youngest Director to date.
Extract from the Annual Reports 1967-1975, showing the Gallery’s growing success. Continued in the Digitised Material tab.