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national galleries

national galleries. Towards the end of the 18th cent., after most of the principal national galleries of Europe had opened, the idea of a National Gallery in London began to be discussed. During the 1820s two notable collections, of Sir George Beaumont and the Revd W. Holwell Carr, were promised to the nation and the Treasury was persuaded to purchase 38 paintings from the estate of city broker John Julius Angerstein. This growing national collection soon outgrew its first home in the Angerstein house in Pall Mall and in 1838 a new building housing the Royal Academy (until 1869) and the National Gallery opened in Trafalgar Square. Treasury grants, generous gifts, loans, and bequests allowed the collection to grow and the gallery to become one of the best and most representative in the world.

The National Gallery of Scotland opened in Edinburgh in 1859, with pictures from the Royal Institution, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the University of Edinburgh. Despite receiving no Treasury aid before 1906, the collection grew by discerning purchase, loans, and bequests. Assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art Collections Fund has enabled some exceptional and controversial acquisitions, most notably the joint purchase with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London of Canova's sculpture The Three Graces in 1995. In 1960 a separate Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was established for painting, sculpture, and graphic art of the 20th cent.

In Dublin, there was talk of a national art collection in the 1760s, yet it was not until 1864, following a successful exhibition paid for by railway owner William Dargan, that a National Gallery, Library, and Museum was opened. As in London and Edinburgh, the collection grew by Treasury funds, private donation, and gifts. A most generous bequest was that of Sir Hugh Lane, director of the Gallery, who died in the sinking of the liner Lusitania in 1915. His will gave almost his entire estate to the gallery.

June Cochrane

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