Top Free Art Galleries in London
London is undeniably an international arts capital that includes the hidden gems of small but intimate art galleries to the internationally acclaimed art museums housed in magnificent historical buildings. There's a broad spectrum of collections ranging from works by old masters dating back hundreds of years to modern art from the present. Furthermore, some of the most popular and visited art galleries in the UK are actually right here in London! Best of all admission to these art galleries are free.
Below is a description of the four most popular galleries to immerse in the city’s art culture. These galleries are conveniently accessible by the London Underground trains.
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery housed in the former Bankside Power Station located directly across the River Thames from St Paul’s Cathedral. The former power station is a short walk from the Southwark and Blackfriars Underground Stations. It’s also a short distance from Bankside Pier where boats on the London River Services make a stop. This art gallery near the River Thames opens throughout the week except 24th, 25th and 26th December for the Christmas holidays.
Tate Modern is home to works of modern and contemporary art including national and international collections from the early 20th century to the present era. It’s one of the largest art galleries in the world for contemporary art and renowned for its diverse collections. The former power station is a huge seven-floor building comprising of three main areas that include the main Turbine Hall situated in the centre of the building, Boiler House in the north wing and the Switch House in the south wing.
Tate Modern’s vast collection includes Impressionism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, Vorticism and Pop Art. Arrangements of the galleries are according to various themes and periods. The Boiler House focuses on art from the early 20th century to the present and Switch House from the 1960s to the present. Works by famous artists here include Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin.
The National Gallery is a prominent art gallery in London with a history that dates back 200 years. The art gallery is located in a huge building in Trafalgar Square and has been here since the middle of the 19th century. The nearest London Underground stations are Embankment and Charing Cross Stations, both about 10 minutes walking distance from the National Gallery. The art gallery opens daily throughout the week except on 24th, 25th and 26th December.
The National Gallery is home to a priceless collection of masterpieces by famous European artist and in the same league as the illustrious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and Louvre Museum in Paris. It’s home to some of the world’s greatest paintings with a collection that include over 2,300 paintings that date from the 13th century to early 20th century. The exhibits here are paintings purchased on behalf of the British government and others from private donations.
The paintings span eight centuries housed in several themed galleries based on specific periods in European art history. These include Medieval paintings from 13th to 15th centuries, Renaissance art from the 16th century and Realism from the 19th century. Paintings include religious scenes, mythology, still life, landscape, everyday life and landscapes. Famous collections include Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci (1483-86), Self-Portrait at the Age of 34 by Rembrandt (1640) and the Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh (1880s).
Tate Britain is another prominent art gallery in London and located at Millbank on the former site of Millbank Prison, which was demolished in 1892. The nearest London Underground stations are Pimlico and Vauxhall Stations, which are both about 10 minutes walking distance from Tate Britain. Riverboats under the London River Services stop at Millbank Pier on the west bank of the River Thames. Tate Britain opens daily throughout the week except during the Christmas holidays from 24th to 26th December.
The gallery is home to a collection of British art with exhibits starting from the Tudor period in the 15th century to the present era. It’s the largest gallery in the world for British art with over 1,000 exhibits on display at any time. Many are by celebrated British artists with the exhibitions under three main themes. The Turner Collection is home to the world’s largest collection of art by JMW Turner, who was the founder of the art gallery. Walk through British Art takes a chronological approach from the 15th century to the present period. Spotlights comprises of changing exhibits focussing on specific artists or themes.
Famous paintings by Turner include The Shipwreck (1805) with its impression of realism and horror. Another is the Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps (1812) expressing man’s helplessness towards the forces of nature. Masterpieces by other British artists include Flatford Mill by John Constable (1816-7), Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais (1851-2) and The Resurrection, Cookham by Sir Stanley Spencer (1924-7). Other notable artists with their works on display include Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, William Hogarth, Damien Hirst and Henry Moore.
National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery in London is located at St Martin’s Place and actually adjacent to the National Gallery. After visiting the National Gallery, make a visit to the National Portrait Gallery or vice versa. Therefore, the Embankment and Charing Cross Underground Stations that take you to the National Gallery will also get you to the National Portrait Gallery. The art gallery opens to the public throughout the week but closes on 24th, 25th and 26th December.
The National Portrait Gallery opened in 1856 but its present location at St Martin’s Place began in 1896. The art gallery houses portraits of prominent people in British history and one of the first portrait galleries in the world when it first opened. Unlike the National Gallery, not all the artworks here are exceptionally artistic (though many are) or because of the merit of the artists. However, the subjects in the portraits have played a significant role in British history.
Portraits include paintings spanning five centuries from the Tudor period in the 15th century to the present. Besides paintings, there are also drawings, caricatures, sculptures, photographs and even medallions. Portraits include royalties, political leaders and public officials as well as actors, musicians and fashion icons. Famous personalities include King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I from 16th century, King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell from the 17th century and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from the 19th century. From the modern period, there are portraits of Winston Churchill, Bob Geldof and Paul McCartney from the Beatles fame.
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