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.

Everyday Icons: Collecting Popular Portraits

7 September 2019 - 1 March 2020

Room 16, Floor 2


Unknown man ('carved wooden roof boss')
by Unknown artist
15th century
NPG D48634

Portraits are around us everywhere, all the time. This display focuses on ‘Popular Portraits’ – representations of named individuals or identifiable characters that would have been owned or seen by a wide cross-section of society. ‘Popular Portraits’ have been part of everyday life from the Anglo-Saxons to the present day, spanning political caricatures to Barbie dolls modelled on royalty and the peoples’ heroes.

The ‘Popular Portrait’ is a new area of collecting for the National Portrait Gallery and includes acquisitions made with the support of an Art Fund New Collecting Award.