London’s National Gallery: 6 Paintings You Have to See

National Gallery

London is a city renowned for many things, unsurprising in a metropolis with as rich a history as the capital of the UK has. 

It has some of the most fascinating museums and enviable art galleries in the world and anyone visiting London will need to carefully prioritise what they want to see before they arrive. 

Whether it be the countless specimens on display at the Natural History Museum, the endless buttons to press at the Science Museum, the surrealism of the Tate Modern or the more traditional artwork of the National Gallery, you have to organise your day in order to see as much as possible. 

If you do choose to visit the famed National Gallery in the equally famed Trafalgar Square then you have a further contemplation, there are over 2,300 paintings, which ones should you see?  

Here are some suggestions: 

The Virgin and Child/The Man of Sorrows 

The oldest painting in the National Gallery is actually two paintings but formed as one piece before they were split in the early 1900s. 

It is thought the paintings date from around 1260 when they were painted by an unknown Umbrian artist. They are one of the earliest examples of this type of Italian painting still in existence today. 

The Virgin and Child shows a baby Jesus blessing his mother with one hand while holding a scroll in the other. 

The Man of Sorrows shows a crucified Christ with angels above him, the angels are covering their eyes and mouths. 

The Hay Wain – Constable 

If you’re in a London art gallery it stands to reason that you should seek out probably the most famous piece of artwork by a British artist. 

It’s difficult to miss The Hay Wain, even if you’re unaware of its existence, painted as it is on a six foot wide piece of canvas. 

It is a typical Constable work, depicting where he lived in the countryside between the counties of Essex and Suffolk. This particular painting shows the River Stour, with one bank in Essex and one in Suffolk. The main focus is a wagon being dragged across the river. 

To the left of the painting is a cottage, known as Willy Lott’s Cottage, which is still standing and can be visited to this day. 

Burlington House Cartoon – Da Vinci 

Not one of da Vinci’s most famous paintings but any painting by the great master has got to be worth seeing. 

This particular painting is often considered his most interesting, not least because it remains unfinished. 

It dates from around 1500 and shows John the Baptist being blessed by the infant Jesus Christ, who is sitting on his mother’s lap, the Virgin Mary, who in turn is sitting on her mother’s lap, Saint Anne. 

Sunflowers – van Gogh 

Although there are seemingly endless pictures of sunflowers attributed to van Gogh, if you have the chance to see one you have to take it. Vincent van Gogh is after all probably the most famous artist to have ever lived. 

The story behind the sunflower pictures goes that van Gogh was living with fellow artist Gauguin in the South of France in 1888. The sunflower pictures were intended to brighten up Gauguin’s room and this particular picture is thought to be the fourth one he painted. 

The Japanese Bridge – Monet 

Another of the world’s most famous artists whose work can be enjoyed at the National Gallery.  

This piece is unmistakably Monet with his trademark use of colours and shading, though the actual bridge in the picture appears blurred. This is because it was painted towards the end of Monet’s life when his eyesight was unfortunately failing. 

Monet himself stated that the painting reflected how our universe changed in front of our very eyes. 

Stonemason’s Yard – Canaletto 

Considered to be one of the greatest works by one of the world’s greatest artists.  

The reason being is that Canaletto is famed for the intricate detail he adds to every one of his paintings, nowhere is that more prominent than in the Stonemason’s Yard.  

From the foreground to the background the attention to detail is extraordinary. There are children playing, a woman spinning thread and laundry hanging out of the windows of the stonemason’s houses. 

The church was also under repair which is also carefully depicted in the painting. 

The painting was completed in around 1720 and has been on display in the National Gallery since 1823. 

These are just a drop in the ocean of the artwork you can see in the National Gallery and across all the galleries in London. You’ll need a long term serviced apartment in London if you intend to see them all! 

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