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.

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Subjects and themes

To help visitors explore the Gallery's collections every portrait digitised is keyworded at the Gallery by subject, with five main categories: accessory, activity, dress, genre and theme. Some individual keywords in each category are illustrated with a selection of portraits below. To explore the full list of keywords in each category and the full set of portraits keyworded in each category, go to the Subjects and Themes section under Portrait in Advanced Search.


Objects and other elements within the portrait (examples: art, books, clocks, flowers, maps, mirrors, pets and textiles).

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What sitters are doing (examples: dancing, eating and drinking, making art and music, reading, sleeping and writing).

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What sitters are wearing and holding (examples: glasses, fans, gloves, hats, jewellery, umbrellas).

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Portraiture types (examples: self-portraits, group portraits, portraits of children and families, nudes, weddings).

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Overarching themes (examples: diversity, events and occasions, artists in their studios, words and inscriptions, gardens).

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Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

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Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video