The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856. It was based on a bold idea: to form a collection of those who have contributed to British history or culture. The collection explores ideas of social change, personal development and the power and creativity of individuals – the talent and genius of the individuals portrayed was even more important than the skill of the artist. Ultimately it is a museum of people, a collection of stories and ideas.
The Gallery has grown into the most extensive collection of portraits in the world and represents over 500 years of British history. The range of media and styles in the collection has expanded to include photography and video alongside sculpture and painting. In the last 25 years, the Gallery has also been commissioning portraits. The collection allows us to explore the universal questions of biography, diversity and fame which lie at the heart of issues of identity and achievement.