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    National GalleryNational Gallery London, England
    Founded in 1824, with just a small purchase of 38 paintings, the National Gallery in London, England, now houses a magnificent collection of more than 2300 paintings that date from the mid-13th century to the early 20th century, the museum occupies space on Trafalgar Square. This fabulous museum would be shaped by its early directors, most notably, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, and private donations that make up two-thirds of the collection today. Although this is a small collection compared to many of the larger and famous art galleries in Europe, it is more encyclopedic in scope, with outstanding developments in Western paintings from Giotto to Cezanne. At one time, it could claim that its entire permanent collection could be shown at one time, it is not so any longer. This is the third home for the excellent museum, and was designed by William Wilkins from 1832 to 1838, and only the facade facing the square is still original; since it has been enlarge by piecemeal over the years. The gallery has a marvelous history and should be enjoyed when time avails, or when you visit, and would be too much material to mention here. At the turn of the 20th century, there appeared an agricultural crisis that would force many affluent families to sell off their glorious and beautiful paintings to survive, but their collections would be priced out of the market by the American plutocrats, so a National Art Collections Fund would be started. Just after the start of WWII, the paintings would be moved from their various locations to a more secure one, if it could be found. One suggestion was made to send them to Canada, but Winston Churchill would personally write a telegram to director Kenneth Clark, suggesting that he could "bury them in caves or cellars", but not one of those paintings would leave these islands. After the war ended, acquisitions would become even more difficult to acquire, at the prices that the old masters were selling for, and worse for impressionists and post-impressionists. Some of the most important and valuable paintings would never have been acquired if not for the help of huge public appeals, and these would include; The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist that was painted by Leonardo da Vinci that was purchased in 1962 and Titian's Death of Actaeon in 1972. In 1985, the fund would be frozen by the government, but then, later that year, Sir Paul Getty would give them an endowment of 50 million pounds to that numerous major purchases could be made; and quite ironically, the institution that would be their biggest competitor for acquisitions would the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. Although there are way to many magnificent paintings to mention at one time, a few of the most famous highlights include; Venus and Mars by Sandro Botticelli, the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci, the Manchester Madonna by Michelangelo, Belshazzar's Feast by Rembrandt, Les Grandes Baigneuses by Paul Cezanne, The Water-Lily Pond by Claude Monet, the Umbrellas by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh, and Portrait of Pope Julius II by Raphael.

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    British MuseumBritish Museum London, England
    One of the biggest and most inclusive museums in the world, with relics from every continent that illustrates and documents the story of mankind, from its origins to the current day, is the British Museum, that was founded in 1753, and sits in London, England. The museum would start with a core collection from the doctor and scientist, Sir Hans Sloane, and it opened in 1759 in the Montagu House in Bloomsbury, where the present museum now sits. It would expand and enlarge over the next two and a half centuries, as the British footprint expanded throughout the world, and result in numerous branches being created, the first such facility being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1887. A number of the objects in the collection have become controversial, most significantly, the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon, with many calling for the restitution to the country of origin. These marbles are better known as the Parthenon marbles, which are actually a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures with inscriptions and architectural members that originally had been part of the Parthenon and various other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. These marbles would be acquired by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803, who had acquired a very controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to take the pieces from the Acropolis. So, from 1801 to 1812, his agents would take about half the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon, along with architectural pieces and sculpture from the Proylaea and Erechtheum. These magnificent and beautiful marbles were created in the 5th century BC, and span some 247 feet along the walls in the purposely constructed Duveen Gallery.

May 17, 2011