National Gallery London unlike most National museums across Europe was not formed after nationalising an already existing royal collection. Rather, the British government had to invest a tidy sum when purchasing 38 classical paintings from an insurance broker, insurance broker. That was 1824. National museums that emerge from nationalization of existing royal collections include Munich’s Alte Pinakothek in 1779, Louvre’s Museum Français in 1793 and Florence’s Medici in 1789. Despite having so many nationalized collections in Europe by 1824, the British took a different route.
Under the guidance of a patron of the arts and Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, the government acquired over 72% of what was a priced collection inherited from John Julius Angerstein. This unique start would eventually become the advantage that differentiates the National Gallery from any other national museum in Europe, and in the world. The scope of coverage, quality of the work, and the depth of artistic exhibition is by far, incomparable to similar national museums.
Regardless of its stature and prestige, and hosting the largest art collection for a national museum, however, the National Gallery London still gives free access to all visitors even to the main collection, for every day of the year. Classified as exempt charity, the gallery is a non-departmental but public-owned institution under the management of UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This perhaps explains why the gallery remains among the most visited destinations in London today, and among the most popular art museums in the world, only equaled by the the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum.