Thursday, June 26, 2008

London's National Portrait Gallery

Being a portrait photographer, I kind of like places like London's National Portrait Gallery-just to see if much has changed over the years. Not much has-just the medium and the costumes, the lighting and body angles are often exactly what I use today. I have always been one of those people that likes the look of a real painting hanging on a wall in front of me. The Wife seems perfectly content just looking at a photo in a book. I like to stand where The Master once stood in front of a painting.

London's National Portrait Gallery is right behind Trafalgar Square, famed for pigeons and London's Smallest Police Station. When I was there you could buy cracked corn to feed the pigeons, who are not at all bashful in Trafalgar Square and will freely sit on an outstretched arm or perch upon your head if you stand still for a minute. Amid the splashing water of the fountains and the screeching of the birds, this is a loud and fun spot. Your sure to want at least a few pictures of pigeons before heading off to the National Portrait Gallery-or maybe a bit of video would be better at catching the energy of Trafalgar Square.

There is a lot to see in The National Portrait Gallery and there are a few paintings you should seek out-including Sir Joshua Reynolds's first portrait of Samuel Johnson, a full-length of Elizabeth I, and a Holbein cartoon of Henry VIII. There's also a portrait of William Shakespeare (with a gold earring) by an unknown artist that bears the claim of being the "most authentic contemporary likeness" of its subject.

The website for London's National Portrait Gallery is filled with a mind boggling amount of information-The Online Database contains info about 113,519 works-57,952 of are illustrated. The National Portrait Galley's collection includes over 330,000 works. The database is being expanded regularly. For example, there are 39 portraits of John Lennon and 6 portraits by famed Hollywood Portrait Photographer George Hurrell. It would be easy to spend a good deal of time wandering around the images online. But I do like seeing these kinds of things in person.

OPENING HOURS-Open daily 10am - 6pm Late night opening Thursday and Friday until 9pm Last admission to paying exhibitions is 45 minutes before the Gallery closes. Closing commences 10 minutes prior to the stated tim0.The Gallery is closed 24-26 December. ADMISSION-Entry to the building is free. There are charges for special exhibitions throughout the year. Ticket prices vary. Disabled visitors pay concessionary rates and carers are entitled to free admission.

Photography is not allowed in The National Portrait Gallery.

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