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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Portrait Explorer

Portrait Explorer

Portrait Explorer

Find out about the Gallery's most intriguing and unusual portraits

The Portrait Explorer provides visitors with digital access to over 46,000 sitters and artists and 120,000 portraits from the Gallery’s Collections through easy-to-use touchscreens.

visitors searching through the Gallery interactive

Use timelines to explore historical periods

If you are not familiar with British history, let us guide you through from the 15th to 21st centuries, viewing portraits from a particular period. A detailed year-by-year timeline is available on the Portrait Explorer covering the Regency Period.

Find out who is who in a group portrait

The Portrait Explorer makes finding out who is who in a group portrait easy. Just touch the head of any sitter in a group portrait or touch the name to reveal the person of interest to you.

Delve into archival documents

Portrait Explorer makes available to the public hundreds of archival documents not normally on display to the public. These include correspondence to the Gallery from sitters and artists and their descendants, with transcriptions, providing visitors with insight into the production of particular portraits.

See portraits in magnified detail

Every portrait can be magnified so that artistic and photographic techniques can be appreciated in greater detail.

Watch video interviews with artists and sitters

Watch a selection of video interviews with artists, photographers and sitters to learn more about how some of the portraits in the Contemporary Collection were produced. Play the whole interview, or select the questions you wish to see answered, all with an on-screen transcription.

Where to find the Portrait Explorer

  • The Portrait Explorer is located in the Café (basement) where you can access the full range of materials.

  • There are three Portrait Explorers dedicated to the Regency period in Rooms 17 and 20 (second floor).

  • There is a variation of the Portrait Explorer focussed on Tudor miniatures in Room 3 (second floor).

  • The Portrait Explorer is also accessible at our regional partner Montacute House in Somerset.