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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Sir George Scharf
by John James Fisher
6 February 1889
NPG Ax13957

The legacy of Sir George Scharf extends far beyond his role as the first Director of the National Portrait Gallery.  Born four months after his parents’ marriage, he was the son of a German artist. Thanks to his talent and determination he became an important figure in the Victorian Art world. He was also a member of some of the most respected London clubs and societies, a friend of artists and aristocrats, and a frequent and cherished guest at numerous country houses.

As Secretary and Director of the National Portrait Gallery (1857-1895) he secured a purpose built Gallery to house the Collection (the current building in St Martin’s Place).  He also established the practices for the acquisition and documentation of portraits and portraiture that remain at the heart of the Gallery’s work today. 

He was a careful observer of life in the Victorian era.  His diaries, notebooks and sketches provide a detailed record of a changing London, everyday life, and important historic events of the time. 

Sir George Scharf's papers are housed in the Heinz Archive and Library. A full catalogue, produced with support from the National Cataloguing Programme for Archives, is available. You can search the Archive Catalogue for the records and view them in person by making an appointment.

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