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.

Advanced Collection search

Athletes and Olympians

Linford Christie
by Alistair Morrison
February 1996
NPG x77035

Past display archive
20 March - 28 September 2008

Room 31 case display


In August 2008, the formal handover of the Olympic flag marks the start of the London 2012 Olympiad. To celebrate the occasion, this display brings together a selection of great British Olympians of the twentieth century. Drawn from the Gallery's Collection, these portraits include well-known sporting stars of recent years, such as Linford Christie, and also figures from an earlier era, including the tennis player, Kitty Godfree.

This year also marks the centenary of London's first Olympic Games in 1908 that took place at the specially built White City stadium in Shepherd's Bush. Three competitors from that historic Olympics are included in this display, alongside a fascinating group of photographs that records the visit of the American Olympic team to the Houses of Parliament during the competition.

Some of the early photographs are formal studio portraits that conceal the sporting achievements of the sitters. The great sprinter Harold Abrahams, winner of a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics, is shown wearing a formal suit, suitable for his other career as a barrister. More recent portraits, such as Alistair Morrison's portrait of Steve Cram sprinting, tend to be more dynamic and focus on the athleticism of the subject.

Colin Jackson
by Trevor Leighton
10 February 1994
NPG x47387

Sebastian Coe
by Alistair Morrison
March 1996
NPG x77024

Steve Backley
by Anderson & Low
16 April 1999
NPG x125678

Tessa Sanderson
by Anderson & Low
NPG x87580

Jayne Torvill; Christopher Dean
by Trevor Leighton
13 August 1997
NPG x131623


Scientific techniques

Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.

Watch now

Subjects and themes

Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!

Discover the Collection

Black History Month

Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.

Take the tour

A Picture of Health

Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.

Explore the timeline