Research Activities

Between 2007 and 2015 the Gallery ran the major research project Making Art in Tudor Britain, which has helped to transform understanding of early painting practice and the production of portraits in the Tudor and Jacobean periods. The project involved a detailed and comprehensive scientific survey of over 100 of the most important portraits from the Gallery’s collection in the period 1500-1620. Outputs from the project include an online database with the results from the technical analysis of over 100 works from the Gallery collection; Gallery displays including ‘Double Take’, ‘Hidden’, and ‘The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered’; and the publication of  Painting in Britain 1500-1650: Production, Influences and Patronage (OUP for the British Academy, 2015).

Entries continue to be added to the Gallery’s Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue available on the website. The size of this part of the collection guided our approach to compiling the catalogue and the decision that this is the first of the Gallery’s period catalogues to be published online. Rather than following an A-Z name sequence, research is conducted according to subject or vocational area. This allows us to publish the catalogue in phased tranches. The first four tranches –artists and art world figures, travellers and explorers, social reformers and philanthropists, and medical pioneers – are now online. They include major names such as: Julia Margaret Cameron, William Morris, Sir Richard Burton, H.M. Stanley, Samuel Smiles, Octavia Hill, Joseph Lister, and Florence Nightingale. The catalogue provides detailed accounts of the portraits of these individuals in the Gallery’s collection, plus comprehensive listings of other known portraits of them in all media. The catalogue therefore contributes to our understanding of portraiture during the first age of portrait photography and the mass dissemination of portrait images of the famous.

British Artists’ Suppliers1650-1950 is a biographical resource devoted to British and foreign firms of artists’ suppliers and colourmen operating in Britain and British firms operating overseas. It focuses on manufacturing and wholesale suppliers and on those retailers mentioned by practising artists or who can readily be identified through advertising in nationally available newspapers and magazines or through the survival of marked products such as canvases, boards, colours and copper plates. For the earlier period before about 1810, artists, booksellers and stationers dealing in artists' materials are listed on a selective basis.

British picture restorers, 1600-1950 is an online resource focused on leading picture, paper and sculpture restorers who worked on major collections in Britain before 1950 or who advertised extensively in art periodicals. Many were active in London but others were based in Dublin, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Derby, Nottingham, Leamington, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath and Plymouth, or toured the country. Picture restoration only became a specialised trade during the course of the 19th century. As such, this resource includes dealers such as John Anderson and John Bouttats and print publishers including Thomas Gaugain and Robert Guéraut. It also includes a few artists such as Arthur Pond, William Kent, Joshua Reynolds, Joseph Wright of Derby and George Richmond, out of the many who restored pictures. It excludes most artists' suppliers and framemakers who only occasionally restored pictures. Restorers and conservators after 1950 are not the main focus but published material relating to deceased practitioners has been signposted.

In December the AHRC advised that the Joseph Banks consortium had been successful in its Network Grant Application. The consortium includes representatives from UCL, Natural History Museum, National Maritime Museum, National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Society. This will bring together scholars working on areas that pertain to the study of Banks and his various interests and spheres of influence. The plan is to hold 3 themed workshops and one open conference during the next 18 months.

HM Queen Margrethe II’s distinguished postdoctoral fellowships on the subject of Danish-British portraiture are the result of a partnership between the Gallery and the National Museum of History in Frederiksborg, with the support of the Carlsberg Foundation. The fellowships began in April 2016 and will run for two years, with one of the fellows being based at the Gallery.