The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

National Programmes

Family Album poster

The Gallery is committed to making the national collection of British portraits available around the country through an active national programme of events, partnerships and loaned works.

Regional Partners

Collection works from the 16th to the 18th century are displayed in period country house contexts.  Montacute House in Somerset (National Trust) displays works from the 16-17th century and Beningbrough Hall in North Yorkshire (National Trust) displays works from the 18th Century.  All three partners have a programme of changing displays and exhibitions, events and activities produced in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery. Partnerships have been in place since the late 1970s. For more information, please see:

Past partnership exhibitions Current partnership exhibitions

Touring Exhibitions and Collaborations

Strategic partnerships with two regional networks of museums, in the North East and South West of England give the Gallery the opportunity to work with different scales of museums and galleries and to reach a variety of audiences who may not visit the Gallery in London. Sharing knowledge and skills is a key part of these network partnerships.Currently, the Gallery is in partnership with Museums Sheffield, Tyne & Wear Museums Service and Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery through the DCMS/DCSF Strategic Commissioning Programme working on jointly selected exhibitions and learning resources.

As well as these more formal partnerships, the Gallery often works with other major UK museums and galleries around the country. The Gallery’s exhibitions often tour with the UK and vary in size from major exhibitions to smaller collection exhibitions.  Information about these and their hire can be found below

Past touring exhibitions Current touring exhibitions

Long-term and temporary exhibition loans

The Gallery has over 1150 loans on long term loan to 173 venues. It also has an energetic programme of lending to exhibitions organised by other UK venues and for works in focus displays.  For more information about how to borrow from the National Portrait Gallery Collection please see below.

Collection loans page

Understanding portraits

Understanding portraits in collections around the country, as well as those in the collection, is also the main aim of a newly created subject specialist network led by the Gallery of over 70 museums and galleries committed to the research and understanding of portraits in regional collections. The website provides three on-line toolkits to assist in the research, display and interpretation of portraits a changing listing of portrait related exhibitions and events linked to the 24 Hour Museum and invites participants to take part in an exercise to  map portraits and associated portrait expertise.  The Gallery’s Steering Group partners are:  The National Trust, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, and Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives.

Visit the Understanding British Portraits website


Learning about portraits around the country resources and activities are often a key or lead element of collaborative projects. Information about workshops and events can be found by accessing our Partners’ own websites and on-line learning activities can be found below.

Visit our digital resources

Effective Collections

The Gallery is a pilot project in the Museum Association’s Effective Collections scheme to place more long term loans in regional venues.  It is hoped that six new loans will be made by April 2009.


The Gallery has a National Strategy which was developed in 2003.  The Strategy was revised in 2010.

Download the National Strategy 2010-2015