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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The National Portrait Gallery commissions a small number of portraits every year as part of its commitment to collecting portraits of those who have made an important contribution to British history and culture. Over the last thirty years, it has commissioned some 180 portrait paintings, sculptures, drawings and works in mixed media as well as many photographs. These portraits now form the backbone of the contemporary displays.

Commissioning portraits

Information about the commissioning process, including choosing a subject, working with the artist and creating the resulting portrait.

Photographic Commissions

The history of commissioning photographs for the Gallery's collections.


Please select the playlists to explore more films about portrait commissions.

Gallery commissions

The Commissioning process

The commissioning programme which is intended to supplement rather than replace other forms of collecting

Road to 2012

Over 30 new photographic portraits of top athletes and key figures involved in the staging of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.