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.

The National Portrait Gallery Highlights


Pub. date: October 2010
Price: £20
ISBN: 978 1 85514 433 0
Format: 270 x 220mm
Extent: 240 pages
Illustrations: 220, 200 in colour
Binding: Paperback with deep flaps
Category: Fine art/Photography

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Out of print

Charles Saumarez Smith with a foreword by Sandy Nairne

The National Portrait Gallery in London houses a unique collection of personalities and faces from the late Middle Ages to the present day.


A national pantheon of the greatest names in British history and culture, the collection includes kings and queens, courtiers and courtesans, politicians and poets,
soldiers and scientists, artists and writers, philosophers and film stars, from Elizabeth I to Stephen Fry, from Shakespeare to Stephen Hawking, portrayed by artists from Holbein to Richard Avedon, from Sir Joshua Reynolds to Paula Rego.

Written by Charles Saumarez Smith, formerly Director of the Gallery, and with a foreword by the present Director, Sandy Nairne, this book features a selection of over 120 of the finest portraits in the collection, forming a permanent record of the range and diversity of British life over the last 500 years, and a fascinating overview of the people who created it. It also contains an illustrated history of the Gallery, from the founding of the collection in 1856 to the opening of the Ondaatje Wing in the year 2000.


  • Charles Saumarez Smith is the Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts. He was previously Director of the National Gallery, Director of the National Portrait Gallery and Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • Sandy Nairne is Director of the National Portrait Gallery. He was previously Director: Programmes at Tate, London and is well known for his innovative television series and book State of the Art.