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The exhibition

Masterpieces from the Royal Collection have been displayed in Buckingham Palace since the residence was acquired by George III and Queen Charlotte in 1762. The painting displays were reinvented during the reign of their son, George IV, who commissioned the architect John Nash to renovate the palace in the 1820s. A Picture Gallery was included to display the monarch’s exceptional collection of paintings. Since then, the Picture Gallery has remained the focus for some of the most treasured Italian, Dutch and Flemish paintings from the Royal Collection.

A watercolour of the interior of the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace. Signed and dated: Douglas Morison 1843. Morison was commissioned in 1843 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who became keen collectors of the fashionable nineteenth-century wate

Douglas Morison, 'The Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace', 1843 (RCIN 919916) ©

Palace displays are often imbued with dynastic meaning; the Picture Gallery was one of the few spaces intended for the enjoyment of art, pure and simple. It is in this same spirit that we have mounted this exhibition: for the first time the paintings are displayed together in modern gallery conditions, allowing us to look at them afresh.

In general these paintings are securely dated and attributed; mostly we know which monarch bought them. We are providing this information here, but we are also asking a different, more subjective question – what makes them important? What do they have to offer? In the exhibition catalogue we have suggested qualities that were valued by the makers of these works and can still be appreciated today: the imitation of nature; the sensuous use of materials; the creation of beautiful design; and the ability to express human emotion. But are we missing something?

We hope that visitors will make up their own minds about what there is to enjoy in these paintings and find reasons to believe that they are still worth exploring.

The Picture Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2019 ©

Explore the exhibition and take our virtual tour:

Dou to Vermeer

Paintings from the Dutch Golden Age displaying scenes of everyday life

Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck

Narrative painting, commissioned portraits and ambitious landscapes with a symbolic or religious meaning

Painting in Italy 1510-1740

Evoking of the first displays at Buckingham Palace during the reign of George III