Experience world class at The National Gallery

Date Posted: 02/02/2012

A group visit to The National Gallery in London will invigorate the senses. Rob Yandell looks at what 2012 has in store for you.

It stands as one of the nation’s prized assets under the watchful gaze of Nelson in London’s Trafalgar Square, but do we take The National Gallery for granted? I am sorry to say I may have done; but not anymore.

After a visit last month to see the acclaimed Leonardo da Vinci exhibition (which has now closed), there is no doubt in my mind that this wonderful building is a treasure trove that will delight all types of groups visiting the capital. If you haven’t thought of it, or not organised a group tour of it, miss out no longer.

Of course, you don’t have to rely on the latest high profile exhibition to be in town. The National Gallery offers a wealth of world-class art, with free entry and, as ever, you get more if you go as a group.

Entry is free if visiting the Gallery's permanent collections, offering thousands of  paintings and famous works, such as van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. But there are also exciting special exhibitions to explore too.

What’s on at The National Gallery in 2012?

This year’s diary ranges from an exploration of the inspiration of one of the nation’s best-loved artists, J. M. W. Turner, to an exhibition of new works created as part of an exciting Cultural Olympiad London 2012 Festival collaboration with the Royal Opera House. Group visitors to The National Gallery will be able to see works that will be on display in the UK for the first time and to discover a variety of media from oil to photography.

Turner Inspired: In The Light Of Claude
14th March to 5th June, Sainsbury Wing, admission charge

Turner admired Claude most of all the Old Masters and enthused about the quality of light in the artist’s Italian landscapes. On his death, Turner left The National Gallery Dido building Carthage and Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish in his will on condition that they were hung between two pictures by Claude, which he named as ‘The Seaport’ (Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba) and ‘The Mill’ (Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca).

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude is the most in-depth examination to date of Turner’s experience of Claude’s art and includes oils, watercolours and sketchbooks. It also introduces groups to the story of the Turner Bequest and its importance in the history of the National Gallery, with the final room of the show exhibiting archive material dedicated to this relationship.

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012
11th July to 23rd September, Sainsbury Wing, admission free

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 brings together a group of specially commissioned works by contemporary artists, poets, choreographers and composers in response to three of Titian’s paintings – Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and Diana and Callisto (pictured above) – all inspired by Ovid’s poem Metamorphoses.

British contemporary artists Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger will design sets for three new ballets at the Royal Opera House. The National Gallery exhibition will showcase their preparatory studies and trace the development of their designs from inception to completion. Renowned choreographers Wayne McGregor, William Tuckett and Christopher Wheeldon will collaborate with the artists to generate new ballets with original
music commissioned from leading British composers. In celebration of this occasion, every member of the ballet’s company – over 100 dancers – will participate in the project. A special performance at the Royal Opera House on the 16th July will be simultaneously relayed to the public on a large screen in Trafalgar Square.

The exhibition, which celebrates British artistic creativity, is a collaboration between the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s London 2012 Festival.

Seduced By Art: Photography Past and Present
31st October to 20th January 2013, Sainsbury Wing, admission charge

Today’s photography is part of our own cultural moment, but it also arises from artistic traditions that long predate it. Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present is an engaging discussion of historical influences on both early photography of the mid-19th century and contemporary photography.

This ground-breaking exhibition brings together exceptional examples of early and contemporary photography. Works will include those by leading photographers – including Tom Hunter, Thomas Struth, Craigie Horsfield, Sam Taylor-Wood and Beate Gütschow – who trace their sources back to 19th century photography or, in some cases, even older art historical traditions.

Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight into Egypt
4th April to 2nd September, Sunley Room, admission free

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio; active about 1506; died 1576) enjoyed the patronage of dukes and kings during his long career and continues to be recognised as one of the greatest artists of all time. Titian’s First Masterpiece: The Flight into Egypt examines the talented young artist’s creation of this extraordinarily ambitious and innovative work, which is believed to be one of his earliest paintings.

The exhibition will display this masterpiece alongside contemporary Venetian works both from the National Gallery’s collection and loans from other British collections to demonstrate how Titian adapted ideas from other artists’ work in order to create his sophisticated composition.

Touring Exhibition Programme
Titian, Diana And Actaeon

This year also sees the continuation of the National Gallery’s support for regional galleries as Titian’s masterpiece, Diana and Actaeon (pictured above), commences a UK tour that takes the work to galleries where it has never been seen before. The painting will be on display at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool until the 26th February; Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 3rd March to 15th April; National Museum Cardiff, 19th April to 17th June; and will return to The National Gallery for the exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012.

Group visits to The National Gallery

You have a range of options as a group travel organiser. Simply let everyone off the leash and point them in the direction of the audio tours or organise a guided tour. Tours can be in-depth, closely studying the paintings based on your interests (i.e. history of art), or be light and fun, revealing the stories behind some of the world’s most famous artists and their work.

One hour, illustrated introductory talks can complement one of the special exhibitions if this interests you. These take an in-depth look at the artists and themes explored in the exhibition, highlighting important ideas and relationships between the works. Talks can be arranged for groups of between 15 and 70 people and cost £300, bookable Monday to Friday.

What you must do is book at least one month before your visit and check the maximum group size for your activity.

For more information about special group tours and talks, or to make a group booking telephone: 020 7747 5915 or e-mail adultgroups@ng-london.org.uk.

Photos © The National Gallery, London 

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